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Liquor sales up for vote again in Loganville

LOGANVILLE - After three failed attempts to allow the sale of liquor by the drink in Loganville, residents on Nov. 6 will have a fourth chance to vote on whether restaurants can pour alcohol.

Since 1995, Loganville residents have decided three times that there will be no liquor poured in the city by margins ranging from 27 votes to 11. In 2005, the last time the issue was voted on, it failed by just 20 votes.

Two other attempts to put the referendum on the ballot, in 2000 and 2003, were vetoed, elections supervisor Michelle Deaton said.

Tony Hewatt, the minister of evangelism for Loganville's First Baptist Church, said he plans to send an e-mail to the church's 2,000 members urging those who live within the city limits to vote against the measure next Tuesday.

"Alcohol is just not a good thing," Hewatt said. "My personal thoughts are that there's an increase in crime due to that. I will encourage our people to vote no on it."

But restaurants are taking an opposite tack. Gus Lolakis, the managing partner of Loganville's Chili's, said he will be posting a sign on the restaurant's door urging people to vote yes to liquor by the drink.

"We're definitely for it," he said.

Jonathan Salter, a 20-year-old host and server at Ruby Tuesday, said he'll be voting for the measure.

"We want it passed," he said. "It means more money in our pocket."

Salter said he thinks the referendum should have already been approved and that residents are wrong to think that being able to sell liquor in restaurants will mean more drunk people.

The restaurant is required to call a taxi for patrons who have been drinking, he said, and is limited in how much alcohol it can serve them.

"It means people will not be driving so far," he said. "People who are going to get drunk will do it anyway, regardless if they're two miles from home or 20."

Salter said Loganville has lost restaurants, such as a LongHorn Steakhouse, that had intended to come to the city if liquor by the drink had been approved previously. That has hurt the city's revenue, he said.

But Hewatt said the city doesn't need the restaurants that only want to come to Loganville if they can serve alcohol.

Don Richards, pastor of the 1,250-member Corinth Baptist Church just outside the city limits, said the economic impact of rehabilitating alcoholics in the city would be far greater than the money Loganville would bring in by serving alcohol.

In addition to his moral objections, Richards said the economic downfalls are reason enough to defeat the referendum for a fourth time.

"I think it's a terrible, terrible mistake. I think it's a tragic mistake, I really do," Richards said. "No city, county or nation ever benefited from selling booze."

Deaton said only 20 people had voted early Monday, compared to 60 early voters last year. Less than 25 percent of voters have turned out for the liquor-by-the-drink referendums, she said.

Loganville also has a referendum for a redevelopment powers act on the ballot. It would allow the city government to set a tax allocation district and sell bonds that would pay for infrastructure improvements. Those bonds would be backed by the expected growth in tax revenues because of increases in property values after redevelopment.

Atlanta's Atlantic Station is one example of a project financed by the tax allocation district.