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Wet/Dry Round 2

Next Tuesday McCreary County voters will head to the polls to decide if the future of the county will include alcohol sales.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. at all polling places in McCreary County, and all registered voters can cast their ballots on one simple question: “Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in McCreary County?”

Though the rancor, rhetoric and debate that defined the 2012 county-wide wet/dry vote has been largely absent this go around, there are still strong opinions on either side of the argument.

Proponents argue allowing alcohol sales will better align the county with surrounding wet territories, increasing tourism and tax revenue.

The McCreary County Tourist Commission publically announced their support of the referendum last week, citing how important alcohol sales are to the future of local tourism.

Opponents cite a possible increase in drunk driving incidents, public safety concerns and moral grounds as reasons to keep beer and liquor sales outside of the county’s borders.

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Despite the relative quiet surrounding this election, a strong voter turnout is expected Tuesday.

County Clerk Eric Haynes says early voting numbers are approaching the same levels they did in 2012, and he and his poll workers are prepared for a potentially busy day.

If the measure fails to pass, it will be at least three more years before another county-wide vote on the issue can be held.

If the bill passes, the County Clerk will have to certify the vote. Once that is completed, and any legal challenges satisfied, the county would have 60 days to adopt an ordinance outlining the scope of the law.

The ordinance should cover licensing fees and requirements, and any additional taxes levied against the sale of alcohol. Additional regulations, such as operating hours and limits of sales can be included.

An Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would have to be appointed and an ABC Coordinator hired.

There could be several types of licenses available for the local ABC Board to consider: Beer only, Beer and Liquor Package, Beer and Liquor by the drink, and Restaurant by the drink, would be the most likely to be considered in McCreary County.

Any local taxes collected from alcohol sales would be earmarked toward enforcement and operating costs for the ABC office, law enforcement and emergency services, and education and prevention programs.

The question of how the money is used will be up to the ABC Board, but with a limited number of licenses available and very few establishments already in operation that would meet requirements to sell both food and drinks, actual tax revenues will not likely amount to much for the county, especially compared to our neighbors.

According to the Pulaski County ABC Board, with several restaurants, package stores and retail locations, over $400,000 in tax revenue from alcohol sales were collected through the first six months of the fiscal year. The majority of the revenue came from malt beverage package sales ($5.5 million) and liquor package sales ($2.7 million).

Over the past two months one Kentucky county, and three cities, have voted to allow alcohol sales in their communities. Recent elections in Barbourville, London, Beaver Dam and Russell County saw referendums passed permitting sales of alcohol.

Similar elections in Graves and Butler counties have failed in the past month.

The city of Mayfield and Ohio County have scheduled wet/dry elections in the coming months.

The city of Monticello is reportedly circulating a petition to sell alcohol at this time as well.

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