A recent newspaper article reported that 97% of the United States allows the legal sale of alcohol in their communities. So your county is unique. It is one of just a few remaining "dry" communities. But, the truth of the matter is, this is not necessarily a great selling point.
People expect to be able to have the option to have a drink with their meal. Especially tourists. Hank Phillips, executive director of the National Tours Association stated that the availability of alcohol makes a difference when tour operators start looking for places to hold meetings and take tourists. If a community wants tourists or meetings and the hotels, restaurants and other things to accommodate them, alcohol is an issue.
Recently a developer called and requested a map of every "dry" county in West Kentucky.
Why? Because they were looking for a location to build an 8 to 12 screen movie house with stadium seating and they were only interested in those communities that were "wet". All dry counties were going to be checked off their list.
Not that they wanted to sell alcohol in their theaters. They were looking for a location where people tended to come to for a nice meal who might be interested in taking in a show afterwards. A dry county did not have this draw.
The theaters ended up being built in Bowling Green and Madisonville, two "wet" communities.
This is not uncommon. Numerous people have stopped in Elizabethtown, Glasgow, and other dry communities. Upon finding out that they could not get a "drink", have chosen to stay elsewhere.
This is even an issue with industrial development. It is a quality of life issue.
Kuttawa (who passed local option in the Fall of 2000) actually had to build a restaurant in order to offer liquor by the drink. A Santa Fe restaurant opened in the Fall of 2001. This small community just announced that they will be getting a $2 million dollar plant which will bring 100 new jobs to the community! This Michigan-based plant had considered Clarksville, TN. and other locations. And yet they chose Kuttawa, Kentucky!
One of the officials with this new industry informed residents that the Santa Fe Restaurant definitely played a part in their selection of Kuttawa. Kuttawa would never have been included on the list of possible locations if the community had been dry. His reasoning was that when they have clients in town, they want to be able take them to a nice restaurant where they have a choice to drink or not. It is a quality of life issue and a certain expectation people have when they come to an area. See Press Release May 17, 2002
This firm now has other companies contacting them expressing interest in moving to Kuttawa. This is a town with a population of 535 people! It doesn't even have a bank nor a grocery store! They will soon! Just watch and see!
Prestonsburg, Ashland, Madisonville, and Morehead all have voted to allow the sale of alcohol within the last ten to twenty years. They were our most recent communities to "go wet" up until the Fall of 2000.
The Alcohol Beverage Control Officers (Known as ABC officers) in each of these communities have reported a decrease in DUI's and public intoxication. Bootleggers have either been forced out of business or have legitimized what they do by opening liquor stores.
Which brings us to an important fact. "Wet" counties do not result in more DUIs and drinking-related accidents. In fact, most often, it is just the opposite. I have ABC officers, police officers and county officials who would be more than happy to testify to this.
Bottom line Monitoring and controlling the situation is much easier when laws are in place. Reverend Whitt, who has spoken out strongly against the sale of alcohol agrees. There is not a single "dry county" within Kentucky. Just some are more "Moist" than others.
None of the communities regret voting in liquor sales. In fact, due to allowing the sale of liquor, their communities have seen significant growth in the number of restaurants, hotels and businesses in their communities.
For example, since the law was passed in Madisonville in 1992, ten new restaurants have opened, five of which sell alcohol. Stores have reopened, new businesses have come to the area including nine manufacturing plants which will employ over 1800 people within the next few years. It is now a thriving community with a tremendous amount of activities. "Madisonville Mayor Karen Cunningham, a teetotaler, said predictions of problems associated with legal sales of liquor have not come true. Overall, we are a better community because of it, Madisonville allows package stores and sales by-the-drink in restaurants but no bars.
The tax on liquor has also helped the economy of these communities.
Ashland alone generates over $450,000 for their general fund due to a 3.5% tax on alcohol sales.
Moreheads revenue tax of 3% on liquor sales generates $125,000 per year plus $14,000 in permit license fee revenue all of which goes into the general fund and help the police force. For information on Morehead, contact Jack (ABC Director in Morehead) (606)784-8505
Over $200,000 is generated each year in Madisonville through this tax which provides equipment and additional funding for the police force and firemen
Of those communities who have gone "wet" since 2000 when a community was given the option to vote for just liquor by the drink, great things are happening:
Georgetown passed liquor by the drink in restaurants in November of 2000. They now have an Applebys, OCharleys, Me Mexico, and a Ruby Tuesday which all came in after they went "wet". Two more well known restaurants have taken out options on property (Outback and Olive Garden) and five existing restaurants now serve alcohol including Renos, China Buffet, Skyline, El Grande and the Plumtree .
Georgetown also attracted some major anchor stores including a large pharmacy, Lowes, Home Depot plus numerous smaller retail shops that are now open or under construction.
Since Murray Kentucky began serving liquor by the drink in April of 2001, four new restaurants have opened which serve alcohol which include the Big Apple that moved from across the Tennessee line and expanded their offerings, Applebees, Toms Grille, and The Bull Pen and one more is under construction. Six existing restaurants also began serving alcohol. In addition, four new non-alcohol serving restaurants (Ryans Family Steakhouse, A&W/Long John Silvers, Huddle House, and Bad Bobs Barbecue) have opened. More restaurants are rumored to be looking into locating in Murray. See Press Release April 2, 2002
Goal: Economic Impact
The current restaurants serving alcohol in Murray are expected to gross in excess of $5-8 million in 2002. Most of the restaurants are reporting record sales and virtually every restaurant (whether it serves alcohol or not) is filled on the weekends. A large number of visitors from around the region are coming to Calloway County to eat and to shop. Local retailers, entertainment venues and hotels are reporting a boost in sales as well.
Goal: New Jobs
The new restaurants in Murray have added more than 500 new jobs in the community. And that does not take into account the other non-food related businesses which have recently opened.
The Murray County Chamber of Commerce stated that a development consultant informed him that where Murray was not even a consideration before, it is now on the scope for expansions.
Tax Impact of Alcohol Sales:
The city of Murray forecasted that they would collect $25,000 in alcohol taxes. Through December of 2001, over $85,000 had been collected which has been used, in part, for alcohol law enforcement activities. The rest will go into the general fund.
A local preacher who was adamantly opposed to holding a local option election in Murray was recently interviewed by the local newspaper. In it he was quoted for saying something like "allowing liquor sales in restaurants had not ruined Murray like he had anticipated. Actually a lot of good has come from it."
With the recent announcements of 2001 tourism expenditures being released across Kentucky, It has been noted that in Scott County (where Georgetown was one of the first to pass local option), their tourism dollars rose 7.1% in 2001. This was in a year when some regions were down as much as 10%. Calloway County saw an increase of 2.7% (Murray went "wet" in 2000) and Todd County was up .5% (Guthrie also went "wet" in 2000). We will have to wait for next year's figures to see how Kuttawa (Lyon County) has increased in tourism expenditures since The Santa Fe Restaurant didn't open until Fall of 2001.