Colchester residents to vote on alcohol sales for fifth time in town’s history

By DEVIN BROOKS, News Reporter

COLCHESTER, Illinois (NEWS3) — Residents in one McDonough County town will vote on whether to allow the sale of alcohol this election.

Colchester has been a dry town for more than 80 years, and voters will have the chance to change the ordinance on Nov. 3.

It will be the fifth time the measure has been placed on the ballot since 1937.

“I wasn’t surprised, because people talk about it every once and awhile,” Mayor Francie Welch said. “Thinking about us being dry all of these years when other towns had approved.”

The last time the referendum was voted on in Colchester was in 1973.

“People think they need to be voting ‘yes,’ but they need to be voting ‘no,’” City Clerk Donna Wetzel said. “I do really think it’s because they’re not reading it.”

Welch said about 230 residents signed a petition in 1973 to get the measure on the ballot, but the vote failed. 

Long-time resident Randy Wear went door-to-door and collected 270 signatures even though only 225 were needed.

“We just started walking,” Wear said. “My wife and I, every evening, would get 10 or 12 names. Next thing you know, I think it’s going to work.”

NEWS 3 went to a local gas station in town to see where residents stand on the liquor vote, and each resident said they were for lifting the ban on alcohol sales. 

“Number one, it’s time,” Wear said. “We’ve never had alcohol for years in this town.” 

In 2007, a petition did not receive enough signatures to make its way to the polls because only 170 residents signed the form. There were also dozens of people, including church leaders and members who started a petition to oppose the measure during that time. 

On the ballot this Nov. 3 election, the ordinance will read, “Shall the sale at retail of alcoholic liquor continue to be prohibited in the City of Colchester, McDonough County, Illinois?”

If residents vote to allow the sale of alcohol, the City Council would then discuss drafting various ordinances about issuing alcohol licenses for businesses, hours of operation and other restrictions decided by the council.