Liquor sales on the ballot in Watson

The remnants of this old sign are the only clue there was a once a gas station where Illinois 37 turns to the south in Watson. The last station on this corner was converted into a used car lot about 10 years ago. Bill Grimes photo

Watson hasn't had a convenience store for 10 years. But village officials seeking to lure a new store into town were coming up against a consistent refrain.

"The first thing I am asked for when I contact a convenience store is if we can sell alcohol," said Village President Duane Sapp. "When I say we are dry, they say 'thank you, but no thank you.'"

That's why village officials are pushing a ballot initiative April 7 that would remove the long-standing prohibition against alcohol sales within the village. But the Watson liquor initiative can be confusing to the careless reader.

The question reads: "Shall the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic liquor be continued in the Village of Watson?" A "yes" vote stands for continuation of the ban, while a "no" vote would open the door for alcohol sales within the village.

Sapp said he's heard little opposition to the proposal.

"We've had no opposition from anyone on the board or anyone in the community who has attended our board meetings," he said. He noted that only two people declined to sign the petition needed to get the issue on the ballot, both for religious reasons.

One man who was arriving at the Watson Civic Center recently to drink coffee said he supports the effort to end the ban.

"I think it's long overdue," said Jim Shelley. "Every other town has a source of revenue. I don't think it will harm the community."

But other men drinking coffee at the Civic Center on a recent morning said the ballot initiative is pointless.

"There will never be a gas station in this town again," said one man, who declined to give his name.

"Watson is just a bedroom community for Effingham any more," added another man, who likewise declined to identify himself.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com, or on Twitter @EDNBGrimes.

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