04/18/2013 12:18 EDT | Updated 06/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan town holds a referendum on what could be its first liquor store

HEPBURN, Sask. - The small farming community of Hepburn, Sask., is growing so much that last year it went from being a village to a town.

But its nearly 600 residents appear to be split on an issue that`s created a divide between old-timers and newcomers — whether or not Hepburn should have a liquor store.

The question will be answered May 1 when ratepayers vote on the question in a referendum.

David Morris of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority said the Hepburn Co-Op has applied for a liquor licence and one will be granted so long as the community supports the idea.

On one side are the people of faith whose Mennonite ancestors founded Hepburn around 1900.

On the other are newcomers to town, who want to see the same amenities they would find in any other Saskatchewan community.

Mayor Mayor Barbara Adams-Eichendorf said the town council opted for the referendum after it became clear the issue has divided residents.

"There seems to be a wide range of reaction ranging from those who think it's a good idea to those who are quite strongly opposed to it," she said.

Adams-Eichendorf noted that many objections to a liquor store have come from people who live outside the town and won't be able to vote in the referendum.

Lifelong resident Ben Goerzen said it was inevitable that when the town began to grow, the demand for amenities would grow as well.

"When you don't have something that simple, to the newer generation of people, it just seems odd not to have it," he said.

There is no town bylaw or ordinance forbidding liquor sales in the town.

Local pastor Rod Schellenberg said that his branch of the Mennonite faith dropped any direct prohibition against drinking by about the mid-twentieth century.

However, he said church teachings are clear that the Bible does not condone getting drunk.

"It's a foolish way to live," he said.