HOUSTON -- Residents in the Houston Heights neighborhood are deciding a hotly contested issue: whether to repeal a 104-year-old ban on alcohol sales. If supporters of the local option election win, retail stores will be allowed to sell beer and wine.
"It will create competition in grocieries and create competition in other retail businesses," said Steve Reilley, who leads the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition. "It's going to give people choices, opportunity and jobs."
The measure is backed by grocery giant HEB, which is planning to build a store at the comer of Shepherd and W. 23rd Street. HEB says it must sell wine and beer at the location in order to be competitive with other grocery stores.
About 10,000 people in the live in the neighborhood, which makes up the boundaries of the former City of Houston Heights. Voters banned alcohol in 1912, now residents who live within the former city, get the chance to repeal the ban.
"It's not about beer and wine, it's about the fabric of this residential neighborhood," said Bill Baldwin, who leads the "Keep the Heights Weird and Dry Campaign".
Baldwin says lifting the historic ban would encourage the development of gas stations and convenience stores, changing the character of the community.
"I want to keep it weird, I want to keep it unique," says Baldwin. "You remove this layer, once it is gone, it is gone forever."
The vote only allows retailers to sell wine and beer. It will not have a direct impact on bars and restaurants.
Early voting continues until Friday. Election day is a week away.