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Alcohol petition making its rounds

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By James Roberts

With two weeks left, more than half the signatures needed to include an alcohol-by-the-drink question on the May Primary ballot have been gathered.

"Right now, we have somewhere in the neighborhood of more than half of the signatures we need," said Mike Kehoe, head pro/general manager at Campbellsville Country Club, who is helping organize the petition effort.

Last week, Kehoe said, about eight people began a door-to-door campaign to collect the remaining signatures.

"I'm very confident at this point that there will be enough names."

Though the petition doesn't have to be filed at the Taylor County Clerk's Office until March 20, Kehoe said he will stop the effort this week to count names.

"We'll have a week left, so if we need more we'll have time to get more."

The petition seeks to allow alcohol-by-the-drink sales in restaurants within the City limits.

"We're not asking for liquor stores, just to allow drinking in restaurants," Kehoe said. "There is a big difference."

Taylor County Clerk Mark Carney said in January the petition must contain 555 signatures from registered voters who live and vote in the City limits.

State law regarding alcohol-by-the-drink sales has changed since the countywide petition drive two years ago, allowing smaller restaurants to serve alcohol.

Before the law was changed, sales could be allowed in restaurants that seat at least 100 people and derive at least 70 percent of their revenue from food sales.

"Now it has changed to restaurants that seat at least 50 and derive 70 percent of their income from food," Carney said in January.

Kehoe said the current effort began with a committee appointed to look into getting a restaurant at the country club.

"What they found was that the communities that are growing are those that are at least moist," Kehoe said.

A dry county that contains a City that allows some form of alcohol sales is considered moist. According the Alcoholic Beverage Control office, there are 16 moist cities in Kentucky. There are 30 wet counties. Of the counties bordering Taylor, only one, Marion, allows alcohol sales. Marion County is wet.

Specifically, Kehoe said, cities that went moist saw great benefits, especially in terms of tax base. Alcohol sales would offer a new form of revenue without raising taxes, he said, beefing up property and occupational tax revenue.

If the petition is accepted, Kehoe said, he and others backing the petition will then begin work on a support campaign, the heart of which, he said, will be that the City needs more tax dollars to prosper.

"We don't have a whole lot of development going on, but we have probably one of the best communities in the area as far as culture with the university and the number of restaurants."

Still, Kehoe said, too many Taylor Countians are going to places like Lebanon or Elizabethtown where they can have an alcoholic beverage with their dinner. Kehoe said he'd rather see those people spend their money in their own community. He'd like to see more people visiting the county as well.

In addition to attracting more restaurants to the area, Kehoe said, allowing liquor-by-the-drink sales would also help the Green River Lake lodge/golf course project.

"It would be hard to have major functions out there without being able to serve alcohol."

Kehoe said the decision to limit the issue to the City was an attempt to attract more people to Campbellsville.

"Let's draw people into our City and show them everything we have."

The petition can be found in several local businesses including Firestone, the American Legion, Campbellsville Country Club and Phillips Lanes.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.