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Once again, residents of Taylor County are faced with the question of whether or not we want to allow the sale of alcohol in our community. This time, however, only city residents are able to decide the issue.
For some reason, our state lawmakers have failed to look beyond the end of their noses and see that alcohol affects entire county populations, not just those in the city limits. County residents also work at and support businesses in the city and are affected by what happens within the city limits. The city-county relationship is not either-or, rather, it is both-and.
The proponents of this measure are sure that the ability to sell alcohol will lure new businesses such as major market restaurants to our city. Will it happen? Consider for a moment why these restaurants are located where they are. The simple answer is population. The number of people within the geographic area determines the potential clientele and profitability. Campbellsville and the surrounding area does not have the population density to make it financially feasible for a major chain restaurant or upscale high-end restaurant to locate here. Those who are driving to other cities to eat out have failed to realize that they are part of the expected draw from surrounding areas listed in the demographic studies of the restaurants located in those cities.
This whole issue is about numbers. And guess what, we don't have them. If we did, we would not have to worry about it. Until the population of Taylor and surrounding counties grows enough to support the financial success of a major chain restaurant we will not have one.
This leads to a second consideration - money.
How much are you willing to spend for one meal for your family? $20, $50, $75, $100? Where do you fit? Why do you think we have all of these fast food restaurants with dollar menus and a never-ending supply of pizza coupons? The answer is simple - we're cheap! We don't want to pay the regular menu price.
How long do you think a restaurant with an average price of $25 per entree would last here? The median disposable income of our population is too low. Sure, there are some who can afford to spend $75 to $100 for a family of four once a week. There are some who could do this every day. But they are the exception. Most of us cannot afford such extravagance. Those who own and operate major restaurants decide where to locate facilities based on the disposable income of the given population. Ours is simply too low.
Will alcohol change any of this? If anything, alcohol will add to the problem. The cost of adding two glasses of wine to a meal could easily increase your ticket by $15 or more. I've seen the wine lists and drink menus in the restaurants of other cities. Add a martini, a daiquiri, or a couple of margaritas and you can easily spend another $20 or $30. Your meal can wind up costing you double if you are not careful.
The question on the ballot, if approved, will not allow a restaurant to have a bar. How many major restaurants that operate with bars in other cities would locate here with that restriction? Take your pick, name one. It won't happen. Restaurants serving alcohol want to be able to serve it at a bar, to those waiting for a table, and to those who just want to drink. A bar is a major profit center to a restaurant. A profit center with little expense. One good bartender can serve a lot of people a lot of alcohol. If the reason for establishing a restaurant is to make a profit, why would anyone want to place one where profit restrictions exist. The only reasonable answer is in anticipation of the restriction being removed in the near future.
If this vote passes, the city of Campbellsville will have to:
u Establish an office for Alcoholic Beverage Control or designate an existing city office to function as that office. This is stipulated in KRS 241.160.
u The mayor or city manager will have to designate someone to serve as the administrator of this office. This is stipulated in KRS 241.170
u The city or county legislative body [in this case the city council] may provide for the issuance of any licenses permitted by KRS 243.070, or the issuance of any other reasonable administrative regulations as may be necessary for the enforcement or administration of this section, provided that any regulation adopted shall conform to the requirements of KRS 241.190. This is a direct quotation of KRS 242.185(4).
u The city council "may by ordinance impose a regulatory license fee upon the gross receipts of each establishment located therein and licensed to sell alcoholic beverages by the drink for consumption on the premises. The regulatory license fee may be levied annually at a rate as shall be reasonably estimated to fully reimburse the city or county for the estimated costs for any additional policing, regulatory, or administrative related expenses. The regulatory license fee shall be in addition to any other taxes, fees or licenses permitted by law, but a credit against the fee shall be allowed in an amount equal to any licenses or fees imposed by the city or county pursuant to KRS 243,070" This quote is from KRS 242.185(5).
What does the law say? It says that all revenue derived from the sale of alcohol must be used to regulate and control alcohol. Any policing, investigating, regulation or administration of alcohol sales, use or misuse will have to be funded by the revenue from alcohol licenses and fees.
There will be no revenue for other projects or services. The income for the city from alcohol licenses and fees must be used to control alcohol. How will this benefit the city? The costs of establishing an ABC office or empowering an existing city office to administer the necessary controls will make licenses and fees extremely high. How many restaurants will it take to pay two or three salaries and fund this venture? How much alcohol will have to be sold with meals in restaurants for the owners to pay for their licenses and gross receipts fees?
Who will be able to work in these restaurants? No one under the age of 20 can work as a waiter or waitress. If you think this won't hurt our economy, think about the many teens who have worked in our existing local restaurants over the years.
One final note. County residents ... speak up. Even though you cannot vote, you still have a voice. If you think allowing the sale of alcohol in local restaurants is not in the best interest of our community, then say so. Tell your friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers who live in the city what you think. If no one speaks out on this issue, it will pass with flying colors. We have enough of a problem with alcohol already. To add legalized sales to the already prolific volume of alcohol coming from Marion County will only put more drunk drivers on our roads and put all of us at a greater risk.
Brent T. Gupton