New election ordered for Pigeon Forge liquor sales

Attorneys present sides in the case against Pigeon Forge liquor by the drink election. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Sevier County Chancery Court Judge ruled that a November 2012 election was inaccurate and ordered a new election to determine if liquor should be sold at restaurants in Pigeon Forge.

Sevier County Chancellor Telford Fogerty ordered a new election take place no sooner than 45 days and no later than 60 days from now. He did not say whether businesses already serving liquor must stop.

The ruling came after a lawsuit filed after the November election challenged 289 votes.

On Thursday, the attorney for the election commission and the plaintiff, the concerned citizens and churches of Pigeon Forge, filed a joint motion saying the election was incurably flawed, and that a new election was needed.

Forging Ahead, a third party allowed to join the lawsuit, argued that a new election wasn't needed. The attorney for Forging Ahead said a new election would disenfranchise the votes of those who voted legally. Attorney, Gregg Isaacs, asked the chancellor to use a proportion system and take out the 289 votes. Isaacs also argued that the City of Pigeon Forge had an interest in the case and should become part of the suit.

"There have been permits issued, the City of Pigeon Forge is a part of that process, it is an indispensable party," Isaacs told the court.

Chancellor Fogerty ruled the city's interest in the case was covered by the defense. He also ruled that he would not use a proportion system to determine the outcome of the vote.

"The chancellor can do anything he or she sees fit. So no, not surprised he did his usual thorough job," said Dennis Francis, Attorney representing the election commission.

Charles Rhodes, originally found the votes that were deemed to be illegal. He said after the ruling, "It's a partial victory for the Sevier Countians. One of the things this was about was restoring the faith in the electoral process that we have here in Sevier County."

11 restaurants are now serving liquor in Pigeon Forge, permits were issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Board after the November election was certified. Restaurant owners now wonder what happens to their investments.

"It's hard on a small business, to make that investment but I'm confident that we'll have the same results in a re-vote," said Tom Horne, owner of the Blue Moose.

The Alcoholic Beverage Commission spokesperson said the board hadn't been officially notified of the ruling, and would have to read the ruling to determine what happens next. For now he said restaurants could continue to serve.

The election commission has not said when a new election would be, this would be a whole new election where anyone who lives in Pigeon Forge would be able to vote.

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