Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

July 19, 2010

Stewardson residents may see liquor issue

STEWARDSON — Proponents of a liquor referendum believe lifting Stewardson’s longtime ban on alcohol sales could help the village get some much-needed revenue. However, the question isn’t on the ballot, yet.

    Last week, the village board approved putting the issue on the November ballot, but the vote wasn’t unanimous.

    “I don’t personally think we need it,” said board member Ron Moomaw, who, along with board member Keith Kirby, voted against the ballot measure. “There’s liquor stores six miles to the south and north of us. It’d cause nothing but trouble.”

    Another board member disagreed.

    “The town needs revenue, and it’s a good way to get it. If we don’t get something going here, we’ll be a ghost town,” said board member Teresa Beals.

    Board member Lisa Shadwell also voted in favor of the referendum, but for a different reason.

    “I voted to put it on the ballot and let the people make a decision,” said Shadwell. “Deciding to put it on the ballot doesn’t mean I’m for or against it.”

    Mayor Lowell Moomaw Jr. doesn’t exactly support the sale of liquor in the village but, likewise, supports allowing residents to vote on the matter.

    “People should decide whether they want it or not,” he said. “I think it’s sorry when a town has to rely on liquor taxes to survive.”

    Moomaw said he is more interested in knowing how residents feel about the issue than the outcome.

    “I don’t care if they decide one way or another,” he added.

    The ban on liquor sales in the village dates back to Prohibition, but this is not the first time the issue has been brought up. While the village has managed to stay dry, the township went wet a few years ago. Prairie Township voters passed a liquor referendum allowing Vahling Vineyards and the now closed The Timbers to sell alcohol.

    Stewardson now has the chance to do the same, but before residents get the opportunity to decide whether they want the village to remain dry, a petition is needed with signatures of 114 registered voters within the village in support of the issue being placed on the ballot. Since petitions typically contain some signatures that are not valid, 200 is needed to ensure the 114. If the issue is placed on the ballot, the referendum will ask voters, “Shall the sale at retail of alcoholic liquor be prohibited in the village of Stewardson?”

    According to Scott Mulvany, who is helping circulate petitions, signatures must be obtained this week to get the issue on the ballot. Although a petition is available for those wishing to sign at Off Route 32 Cafe in Stewardson, Mulvany and others will be going door to door to get the required signatures.

    Even though Mulvany is co-owner of Off Route 32 Cafe, he said he isn’t interested in selling liquor at the restaurant if the referendum passes, but supports its passage anyway.

    “We’re a dying town. It’s one little way of getting something that goes to other towns,” he said, referring to sales tax revenue generated from liquor sales in neighboring towns.

    While Mulvany doesn’t plan to offer liquor, he believes other establishments, such as the American Legion and Citgo convenience store, could benefit.

    Moomaw is not so sure.

    “I think the number of people complaining will outweigh the benefits.”

    Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or cathy.thoele@effinghamdailynews.com.

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