Students, business owners debate liquor laws at public forum
By Abbigail Overfelt
As the first installment of SGA’s “Issues Week,” a public forum was held in the UC lounge at 6 p.m. which encouraged debate between local representatives, business owners, students and faculty about the “liquor by the drink law.”
The law, which would allow businesses to serve single or mixed drinks, is a subject of strong debate in the community.
The forum, which was advertised in town by the SGA, served as a way to address concerns from the differing viewpoints on the law.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Kevin S. Freeman served as the moderator of the debate.
Dr. Ruth Dial Woods represented those in the community that were against the law, while District Representative Ronnie Sutton represented those that are for the law.
“Three years ago, we successfully defeated the referendum in Pembroke,” Dr. Woods said. “We had hoped we wouldn’t have to go there again.”
Dr. Woods’ platform was based on fears that the liquor by the drink law would cause moral decay in the community.
“My concern is that ...from 1993-2005, partying on college campuses has been more intense, drug abuse was up…the research says that you may start, with binge drinking, but the earlier you start the more dependent you may become to alcohol and substance abuse,” Dr. Woods said.
“I operate a soup kitchen for the homeless, addicts and people that have mental problems, and I can attest to you that drugs are alive and well in Robeson County and readily available,” Woods continued.
Dr. Woods also addressed those who feel that passing the law would economically stimulate the community by suggesting that business in Pembroke is already thriving.
“We have grocery stores we have a hardware store that’s a multi million-dollar business now, we have car service, we have florists, we have banks, we have drug stores and we have jewelry stores,” she said.
“I do believe that there are other ways that [students] can make a difference in this community than advocating liquor by the drink...if you came here to get an education, you are going to get ripped off if you decide to do it with alcohol and drugs,”
Dr. Woods concluded.
Rep. Sutton concentrated on the economic growth that law could bring to the community.
“Folks, we are in the poorest county in North Carolina,” he said.
Rep. Sutton went on to say that although the law won’t be a quick economic fix for the community, he knows that the law is one thing that prospective businesses look for.
He said that by not having liquor by the drink, Pembroke is sending people that would have spent their money in town to surrounding areas that do have the laws, like Lumberton and Maxton.
Rep. Sutton also addressed the community’s moral concerns.
“If liquor by the drink comes to restaurants in Pembroke, will there be an increase in the sale of alcohol? Of course. Will there be an increase in the number of alcoholics? Probably not,” he said. “An alcoholic is not going to go to a restaurant and get drunk.
“They’re going to go to the liquor store and buy a fifth or a quart, and that’s already here. We’re not...introducing Pembroke to alcohol, we’re just adding another option to the table,” he said.