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Brenda Daniel, left, and Peggy Russell patronize Giovanni’s on the Square in Athens. The sale of alcohol was a factor in the restaurant’s opening in the city. Athens residents voted to keep alcohol sales during a referendum Tuesday.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Brenda Daniel, left, and Peggy Russell patronize Giovanni’s on the Square in Athens. The sale of alcohol was a factor in the restaurant’s opening in the city. Athens residents voted to keep alcohol sales during a referendum Tuesday.

WET-DRY REFERENDUM
Prohibition
won’t return

Residents vote to keep Athens alcohol sales

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — Leave it to Sheriff Mike Blakely to have the comment that summed up the outcome on Tuesday night’s election.

“The beer’s still flowing and the taxes ain’t growing,” he said, as a crowd waited at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex to see whether the city would repeal alcohol sales and whether Limestone County and the city would raise the sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar.

Spectators watched two big screens, one outside in the muggy heat, and one inside with air conditioning. Alcohol passed and the tax failed.

Support for alcohol was about 68 percent, with 4,288 votes to 2,030 votes. Those results have not been certified.

National attention

National media picked up on the story of an Alabama town voting on repeal of alcohol sales. Mayor Dan Williams said he told Fox News and ABC News that “it’s a hot summer but a hotter issue on the ballot.”

The mayor said the national media did not understand why the city would vote to repeal liquor if alcohol is legal.

“That’s just the way it is down here,” Williams said he told them. “But they couldn’t understand that.”

Patrons at Giovanni’s arrived at the downtown restaurant before polls closed to get seats and wait for the results on alcohol. Giovanni’s left Hartselle and located in Athens to have the opportunity to sell alcohol.

“We are wide open. Just a lot of happy folks here,” owner Rod Ross said after the vote during a live phone interview on the “Athens2day” show. “It’s awesome. Athens is such a great city. I had faith in Athens, and they’ve sure come through.”

The city began allowing alcohol sales in December 2003 after voters’ approval. Opponents gathered enough signatures on a petition this year to get a vote on repealing sales. Eddie Gooch, minister at Isom’s Chapel United Methodist Church, headed the opposing group.

He said the group, called Athens-Limestone Quality of Life, will not revisit this issue unless God leads in that direction.

“We feel like this was probably our best opportunity to repeal it,” he said. “I wish we had more ‘no’ votes, but we give God the glory for what votes we did get.”

City Council President Harold Wales said he hopes the two sides can come together now to make Athens a better place for future generations.

“We’ve debated this issue for two months, and it’s been made clear,” Wales said. “I think people looked at what has happened in the past four years and like the direction the city is going.”

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