by Sam Baranowski
The town board of Elon is preparing to take on the topic of liquor by the drink, one which local business owners have struggled with for decades.
Jeff MacKenzie, Elon alum ’78 and owner of Fat Frogg, says local restaurants all agree they are losing business to places with a bigger drink menu.
“We have lots of customers who say ‘we love to come to your place because we enjoy it, but we don’t like beer so we go to Burlington instead’,” MacKenzie explained.
MacKenzie, his daugher JB and co-owner Peter Ustach suggested liquor permits to Elon’s town board this month. This is not MacKenzie’s first attempt to bring the policy to Elon. “I proposed it years ago,” he said. “And the reception wasn’t nearly as warm as this time. This time we got some support.”
Mayor Jerry Tolley told the Times-News this issue could appear on the ballot as a public referendum in November. MacKenzie tells us that’s no longer the case. There is a statute that prohibits a vote on alcohol during political elections. That means the issue would have to be tabled for an entire year.
“We can’t wait for that. We want the town to vote on it now so we can have a special vote on the issue soon,” he said.
A group of Elon restaurateurs will attend the next town meeting to encourage a board vote—a last attempt to avoid a petition.
Fat Frogg does have a brown bagging permit that allows customers to bring their own wine or liquor. MacKenzie says they don’t use their permit because it’s too difficult to manage, adding to the appeal of a liquor permit.
“We’re not allowed to touch it, so the quantity is uncontrollable but the establishment is still held accountable for consumption. That’s a time bomb,” he said.
This is the appeal to Elon University. Senior Krysten Malcolm sees a liquor permit as a way for alcohol consumption to be monitored more effectively.
“I think it would encourage a decrease in binge drinking, because students would feel less pressure to ‘pregame’ before they went out,” she said.
If a petition does make it’s way around town, only registered voters can sign it. This leaves out the majority of Elon students who vote for their home elections through absentee ballots.
Malcolm is registered in West Virginia. She says, “it would be nice to be able to vote, since this is really going to be affecting the students.”
MacKenzie says student support helps, but we’re not his target audience. “It’s not to get people lined up on the bar taking shots,” he says, “it’s more for a middle-aged clientele to enjoy a drink in the evening with dinner.”