Down the Ballot

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let them Drink! Martinis for Monmouth

Citizens of Monmouth, Oregon are hoping to remove the last link to the towns long history of prohibition. This May residents will vote on removing the ban on the sale of “intoxicating liquors” containing more than 14% alcohol per volume. Basically, this will allow bars and restaurants to serve rum, vodka, and any other liquor you could find in your average liquor store. Provided they meet all the current legal requirements that exist in the state of Oregon.

Here is the actual city code they are hoping to repeal:

40.120 Sale of Liquor Prohibited. No person shall sell or barter or offer for sale any intoxicating liquor containing more than 14% alcohol by volume within the limits of this city. (Ord. 697, sec. 2; amended by election of Nov., 2002 )

The previous amendment in 2002 ended the dry spell of the town that had existed since 1859. Starting in 2003 residents were allowed to purchase Beer and Wine at stores, restaurants, and bars. Now, through citizen initiative, residents are hoping to finally do away with the last remnants of the towns dry era.

In December of 2009, Chief Petitioners Cec Koontz and David Sherman helped gather enough signatures to put it on the May 2010 ballot. You can contact the campaign through this website Martinis for Monmouth.

It turns out that Monmouth really only became dry in the first place to spite a local business owner in the 1850s. Back in 2002, the OSU Daily Barometer covered the fascinating history of the law. For some reason the local store owner wasn't too keen on paying his bills and town elders were getting grumpy so they petitioned the territorial legislature to incorporate them as a town. One of the first things they did was ban the sale of booze. Which drove the naughty store owner out of business. Today we have many different means to collect money from individuals who don't pay their bills. No need to go outlawing alcohol for entire communities to get back at one person.

So far there has been little press outside of Polk County. Mayor John Oberst, who helped lead the first effort in 2002 is optimistic for 2010. You can read more on the developments thanks to the Polk County Itemizer Observer 'Hard alcohol repeal qualifies for ballot','Liquor proponents keep spirits up' and 'Freeing the Spirits'. I'm sure if Oregon had a Prohibition Party we might hear something from them. This is just a fine example of what the fruits of the Oregon system of government can bear. Through the initiative process we citizens can change laws at pretty much every level of government in Oregon. It is something that should be cherished.

As someone who came to Monmouth to attend Western Oregon University in 2003, I was able to witness the transformation of Main Street into what it is today. The changes have been especially stark within the last three years. In 2003, I had very little reason to leave campus and now there are ample shops and restaurants on Main Street. My favorite places were Rick's Place, which had been there for many years and one of the newer establishments Nagani Sushi Bar.

So let them drink I say...or more exactly, let them buy and sell drinks to people who want to have a good night on the town Monmouth style. For more information on what you can do to help contact Chief Petitioners Cec Koontz and David Sherman.
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