Nov 9, 2022 - Food and Drink

A rural town 40 minutes from Charlotte wanted margaritas, so they passed a new law

Photo courtesy Los Jacubes Mexican Restaurant

In the tiny Rowan County town of Rockwell, you can now order a cocktail thanks to a voter referendum and one Mexican restaurant’s determination to serve margaritas.

“Big changes are coming,” says Pedro Saldana, the manager of Los Jacubes, a Mexican restaurant in Rockwell that led the charge for the new law. “Thank God for this because we’ve been praying … and thanks to all the friends and customers who supported me.”

Driving the news: Los Jacubes canvassed the Rockwell town board to add a liquor-by-the-drink referendum to the ballot earlier this year, WSOC reported.

  • Once it was on the ballot, the restaurant urged its customers with signs and social media posts to vote.
  • “Today’s the day!” the restaurant posted on Facebook Tuesday morning. “Residents of Rockwell: this is your chance to be able to enjoy a margarita in our restaurant.”

Zoom out: North Carolina is a Bible Belt state whose alcohol regulations have been in place for over 80 years, though lawmakers in recent years have been chipping away at some of its Prohibition-era laws.

The big picture: Over 40 years ago, Charlotte voters approved its own liquor-by-the-drink ordinance, allowing mixed drinks to be served in local restaurants. Now Rockwell gets to raise a glass, too.

[Related Axios guide: 15 best cocktail bars in Charlotte]

Photo courtesy Los Jacubes Mexican Restaurant

By the numbers: Their campaign worked — 541 Rockwell voters (69%) voted for the margs, 244 voted against.

What’s next: Saldana, who’s lived in Rockwell for over 10 years since immigrating from his native Mexico, is still working out the details of the new margarita menu. He tells Axios that selling cocktails will be huge for the restaurant’s success.

  • “I already have a lot of phone calls from customers about when we’re going to start,” he tells Axios. “I just tell them wait a little bit, and I promise it’s coming.”

The bottom line: It’s hard to imagine Charlotte today without cocktails. Liquor-by-the-drink is one ingredient of many fueling the city’s growth.

  • It’s helped our dining scene become more “world-class.”
  • It’s made thousands of happy hours possible.
  • It’s sustained our local restaurants.

Time will tell how this referendum affects Rockwell — a town of just over 2,000 people — but in the meantime, we hope our neighbors 40 minutes northeast enjoy their margaritas.

Go deeper: Read more Charlotte election results from the 2022 midterms here.

[Related Axios guide: 13 spots in Charlotte to get a margarita]


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