Liquor-by-the-drink referendums fail in two cities

LAWRENCEVILLE - There will be no pouring in Statham or Loganville, but a measure to sell liquor by the drink passed by a large margin in Berkeley Lake, a city with no restaurants to serve alcohol.

Two Buford tax referendums also passed by huge margins Tuesday.

Loganville is the most commercially developed of the three cities with liquor-by-the-drink referendums on the ballot, but the sales are an unpopular idea.

Voters defeated the measure for the third time in 10 years, with a close vote.

It failed by 20 votes this time, with 466 of the 912 voters opposed to liquor by the drink and 446 in favor of it. In 1997, it was defeated by only 11 votes, and in 1995 by 27 votes. In Statham, the referendum also failed by a narrow margin, with 53 percent of voters opposing the measure.

Vice Mayor Gayle Steed has said passing a liquor-by-the-drink referendum would allow the city to expand its restaurant options and bring hotels to the area. But of the 98 voters who came to the polls, only 46 voted to allow liquor licenses, and 52 opposed them.

This is the first time Statham has had a liquor-by-the-drink referendum on the ballot. Steed said she expects to see it on the ballot again.

Berkeley Lake has no commercial development, but residents hope allowing liquor sales will be a draw for restaurants to come to the first commercial development, planned at North Berkeley Lake Road and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

The measure passed by a vote of 336 to 94, or 78 percent.

Buford residents overwhelmingly voted to cut homeowners' property taxes and eliminate them for residents 70 years old or older.

Nearly 93 percent of voters supported raising the $2,000 homestead exemption to $22,000 over the next five years. For Buford homeowners whose houses are worth $100,000 or less, the exemption will mean that they will not have to pay property taxes.

Owners of houses valued at $180,000, which is the average in the Buford ZIP code, will have their bills cut by $600.

Residents who are more than 70 years old will not pay property taxes regardless of the value of their homes, voters declared, passing the referendum by a 95 percent margin.