Voters to decide alcohol issue

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By James Roberts

In May, Campbellsville voters will decide whether some local restaurants can serve alcohol or not.

According to Taylor County Clerk Mark Carney, the group circulating a petition seeking to allow the sale of alcohol by the drink in Campbellsville turned in the final petition on Wednesday.

As of Thursday afternoon, which was the petition deadline, 603 signatures had been verified, Carney said - 44 more than needed. Carney said petitioners started bringing in petitions a week ahead of the deadline.

"As of right now, 603 signatures are good with 170 left to check," Carney said.

Though he isn't sure if he legally is required to continue checking the signatures now that the minimum number has been met, Carney said he intends to check the remaining signatures today.

"I'm probably not required to check all of them, but [the petitioners] want to know."

According to Carney, 891 signatures were turned in. Aside from the 603 that have been certified, 99 signers didn't live in the City limits, 14 signed twice and 175 were not on the voting roster as of the last General Election. Carney said he will check those signatures against a new voting roster. Some people registered to vote as a result of the petition, he said.

April 21 is the deadline to register to vote in the primary.

The question will appear on the May ballot as "Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in Campbellsville, Kentucky at restaurants and dining facilities with a seating capacity of at least fifty persons and which derive at least seventy percent of their gross receipts from the sale of food?"

Only those who are registered in the City's 11 voting precincts can vote on the question.

"It's just the voters living in the City limits," Carney said. "If you vote for mayor or city council, you can vote on this question."

Mike Kehoe, head pro/general manager at Campbellsville Country Club, who is helping organize the petition effort, said the next step for petitioners is "to make sure everybody understands the facts."

Kehoe said those supporting the issue will release data which demonstrates the economic impact alcohol-by-the-drink sales would have.

"It's going to be more of a grass roots kind of thing," Kehoe said of the campaign.

Kehoe said the effort began with a committee appointed to look into opening a restaurant at the country club. What that committee found was that prospering Kentucky communities where those that offered some form of alcohol sales.

A dry county with a City that allows some form of alcohol sales is considered moist. According to 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.

Kehoe says cities that are moist see 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.

But the petitioners' efforts won't be without opposition.

On Feb. 11, the Taylor County Ministerial Association adopted a resolution in opposition to alcohol sales in Campbellsville. In that resolution, which was printed in the March 17 issue of the Central Kentucky News-Journal, the association states that it can "find no clear and present economic benefit" from alcohol sales.

Ministerial Association President Skip Alexander was not available for comment on Friday.

Dr. Robert Clark, Taylor County Baptist Association director of ministries, said that the Baptist Association also opposes the sale of alcohol.

"We think the culture of our community doesn't need this in our town," Clark said. "For the good of our overall community, we don't need it."

State law regarding alcohol-by-the-drink sales has changed since a 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 restaurants seating at least 50 people and derive at least 70 percent of their income from food sales can sell alcohol by the drink. By law, the alcohol could only be consumed inside the restaurant. Customers cannot take alcoholic beverages with them.

Kehoe said that a restaurant could be held liable if a customer who has been over-served gets behind the wheel of a vehicle and then crashes.

Because of that, Kehoe believes that allowing alcohol sales in restaurants would not increase the number of drunk drivers.

"Anytime you have restaurants serving alcohol by the drink, it guarantees you won't have inebriated drivers."

Kehoe said he is happy that the issue will make it to the hands of voters.

"Now we get to vote on it," Kehoe said. "That is all I could have ever wanted."

- 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.