Attorney explains how Pigeon Forge liquor vote went sour

Attorney explains how Pigeon Forge liquor vote went sour

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Some Pigeon Forge restaurants have already started serving liquor. Some Pigeon Forge restaurants have already started serving liquor.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - Voters in Pigeon Forge will head back to the polls to vote again on liquor by the drink, likely the middle of March.

In the November election, Pigeon Forge passed the law by 100 votes. Now, election officials say 289 people voted incorrectly, leading a judge to void those results.

The Sevier County election chairman and administrator both refused to do an interview, but we did sit down with the election commission's attorney, who so far has spent an estimated 77 hours, billed ultimately to the taxpayers, working to sort out this mess.

"The election commission is not happy with this outcome. This is not what people were hired for. This is not what people were entrusted for," said Attorney Dennis B. Francis.

He said part of the problem was the Election Day turnout, the largest in Sevier County history.

"They were simply overwhelmed. Human error. I don't know a better way to put it. They received instruction. They should have received manuals, you know, this is how you do your job," Francis said. "We don't have young people doing this. We have people that are retired. So you have some people that have some age on them. They were simply overwhelmed."

While they wait for the new election, eleven restaurants in Pigeon Forge are already serving liquor. The interim director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission said unless a judge or the attorney general says otherwise, they plan to let them keep their licenses.

"Right now, it's business as usual until we hear otherwise from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission," said Tom Horne, director of operations for Diverse Concepts, the company that oversees four of those restaurants.

"We had to go in and buy supplies as well as the inventory, so there has been a cost to us to do that and we've trained our staff," Horne said.

Despite the voided election, he doesn't think their investment will go to waste.

"I'm optimistic still that with the revote the results will probably come out the same," Horne said.

The election commission will be meeting Wednesday to set a date for the new election. Francis said it will probably be March 14 or 15. 

They'll also discuss how to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

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