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PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – The battle over liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge is picking up speed as both sides have less than two months to persuade voters.
On Friday, a judge set a new election date on whether businesses will be allowed to serve liquor. The re-vote is set for March 14.
Tuesday night, the pro-liquor group, Forging Ahead, met for the first time since the election date was set to outline their campaign strategy.
"It's not about liquor by the drink, it's about the choice," explained Ken Maples, co-chair of Forging Ahead. "It's about giving the restaurant owners the choice, the residents that moved here a choice, the visitors that come here that expect a choice to have a drink with dinner if they'd like."
A group of 25 residents, business and restaurant owners are working to register voters and get out the vote in an effort to keep liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge.
"We've really got to motivate the voters to get out and vote to protect this revenue coming into our city and going to our schools, we know the opposition will be doing the same thing," Maples said.
The biggest point the group is trying to make is the money from drink sales will go towards school funding, an advantage neighboring cities have that they don't.
Their campaign pamphlet reads, "Here's the math," showing Sevierville schools received $105,929 and Gatlinburg schools received $453,825, all from liquor by the drink taxes.
"Just based on the revenue, or the sales tax revenue that we sent in to the state for liquor by the drink, we apply that to the rest of the year, I think in the four restaurants, I think we can deliver $50,000 to the schools in our four restaurants alone," explained Tom Horne, owner of Bull Fish, Mellow Mushroom, Blue Moose and Johnny Carino's.
Horne owns four of the nine restaurants selling liquor since the November election and he says together they are all working to ensure they can keep on serving.
"Now that we have it we have a significant investment financially into it, in our inventory, as well as educating our staff, so we'd like to keep it. We're going to support the Forging Ahead movement and ensure we win the next referendum," Horne said.
The group against liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge, Concerned Citizens and Churches of Pigeon Forge also held a meeting Tuesday night. They say they are focused on the March 14th election and ensuring that every one that votes is legally allowed to.
Both groups believe the fact that liquor by the drink will be the only referendum on the ballot and that it will be only a city election will help prevent some of the confusion that occurred in November.