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Neighboring communities gain tourism after ‘moist’ votes

In Jan. 10-16, 2008 issue
By Derek Aaron, Times Journal Reporter

The constant scuttlebutt of Russell County becoming a "wet" or "moist" county rather than remain "dry" remains on many people's minds as we start the new year.

This is possibly fueled by voters in nearby communities making changes to their alcohol sale policies.

Burnside, Danville, London, Corbin and Cave City went "moist" and began allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages in larger restaurants in recent years.

Glasgow in Barren County voted in November to switch to "moist" as well.

The last alcohol vote in Russell County was in November 2000, when Jamestown voters chose to remain dry by a total vote of 362-242 against the sale of alcohol, according to records at the court clerk's office.

At that time, the lake precinct in Jamestown had 99 votes for the sale of alcohol while 137 voters said no to the proposed change. In the Jamestown precinct, 125 voters chose yes to the sale of alcohol against 205 people who chose no.

In absentee voting, 18 people voted for the sale of alcoholic beverages while 20 voted no on the ballot.

That vote was whether to approve the legal sale of alcoholic beverages in stores, rather than the sale of alcohol by the drink at larger restaurants, as all the above-named cities have recently done.

Nearly three years ago Burnside citizens voted for their city to become the only town in neighboring Pulaski County to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in "qualified establishments" therefore becoming "moist."

Because of the vote, the city of Burnside annexed several miles of Lake Cumberland shoreline into their city limits, allowing Lee's Ford Marina's Harbor Restaurant to sell alcohol by the drink.

After the issue was challenged during August of last year, voters again confirmed the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink in Burnside restaurants. A final vote of 227-104 in favor of the sale of alcohol in restaurants that seat at least 100 people and obtain at least 70 percent of the "total gross receipts" from the sale of food settled the dispute, for now.

Burnside Mayor Chuck Fourman said his city had "most definitely" benefited from becoming moist.

"Burnside was at a standstill with new development until the vote," he said. "This has enabled us to have extra tax revenue for the city."

Fourman said the alcohol tax along with the already-imposed food tax has allowed the police department and other city departments to be more adequately funded.

"It has been a big benefit to us," he said. "It allowed us to lower our property tax rate a minimal margin." He said he hopes property taxes will continue to fall as new restaurants find their way to Burnside.

"Anytime you introduce something new to a city everybody is going to have different views," he said. But the thing he says one can't argue against is the economic impact it's had on his community.

"We now have six restaurants that can serve alcohol," Fourman said. He said five had located or were obtained through annexation (Lee's Ford Marina) since the vote and another one had re-opened after being closed for several years, in order to reap the benefits gained by going "moist."

Fourman said he took no personal view on the "moist issue," but that the positive economic results for the city were obvious to him.

Two wineries in Pulaski County, Sinking Valley Vineyards and Cedar Creek Vineyards, are also regulated to allow the sell of wine to the public.

Cave City, in Barren County, voted three years ago to also become "moist" by a margin of less than 10 votes that left the city somewhat divided. In November of last year, Barren County's largest city, Glasgow, also became "moist,' after having three earlier elections to allow full alcohol sales in the city being decisively defeated. Glasgow had more than 100 votes more to allow alcohol sales than to not do so.

Barren County Judge-Executive Davie Greer said Glasgow would begin serving alcoholic drinks in April in restaurants that seat 100 or more people. Receiving final paperwork from Frankfort on the issue is the only reason for the delay.

"We've had a lot of inquiries from restaurants about wanting to locate here but as of now we only have two restaurants in Glasgow that can serve alcohol, one being Tumbleweed," Greer said.

Two more restaurants are currently being remodeled to serve 100 people so they too can serve alcohol by the drink. One of those is St. Charles Kitchen, a long-time Glasgow establishment, according to Greer.

"It's too soon to tell how they're going to do here in Glasgow," she said. "All we have right now is a lot of questions."

Greer said that prospective businesses that checked with Glasgow before going "moist" didn't understand the concept of a "dry" county since most of these businesses deal in larger "wet" urban areas.

"We just wanted to have some nice restaurants here so that our citizens didn't have to travel to Bowling Green for a meal," Greer said.

Cave City, on the other hand, currently has only two restaurants that sell alcohol, a Mexican restaurant and Rawhide, Greer said.

Barren County's alcohol serving restaurants will be open on Sunday after 3 p.m., she said.

She also said the county is in the process of getting a mall-like shopping center to lure even more people to the area.

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