The results are still unofficial, as absentee ballots are still being counted. At the polls, 998 people voted for liquor by the drink, while 1,100 voted against it.
Three years ago, a similar proposal failed by just 40 votes. Supporters were pushing harder for it to pass this time around.
Signs supporting liquor by the drink are all over Dunn. Supporters say selling liquor in restaurants and hotels will increase the town's revenue and attract quality restaurants. They also say it will give business owners more control.
"As a patron-- to carry an entire bottle of liquor into the restaurant, consume the whole thing, and the restaurant owner has no control over it," says Tilghman Pope of Citizens for a Better Way. "If the restaurant owner is selling mixed beverages, they can control the amount of consumption that their patrons have. Thus, we think that's a better way to control the distribution of alcohol."
Opponents say it's a moral and religious issue. They also worry easy access to liquor will attract crime.
"We do a lot of work with young people in the jail, ministry in Lillington and in Dunn," explains H.T. Spence of Citizens Against Liquor by the Drink. "And the overwhelming majority are involved in drugs and alcohol. We want the crime to decrease in our community."
As of noon on Tuesday, some 700 people had come out to vote on the referendum. Dunn has 6,000 registered voters, and more than 2,000 were expected to vote.
Supporters say if the referendum passes, it will decrease drinking and driving because people won't drive to Fayetteville or other larger cities, drink with dinner, and then return home. Opponents say drinking and driving won't happen if the referendum does not pass. That's because people will not be able to drink at restaurants, then drive down rural roads.