Scott County residents could join Georgetown in offering liquor by the drink and package sales if organizers collect enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.
A group of county businessmen, including Michael Blowen of Old Friends Farm, C.J. May who owns the property Josie’s is located on, Daniel Harrison at Country Boy Brewing and others have put petitions in various locations to collect the required 5,528 minimum signatures by Aug. 13.
Their hope is to level the playing field across the county for restaurants and businesses and spur economic opportunity. Petitions are currently located at Old Friends Farm, Josie’s, Country Boy Brewing and the Georgetown/Scott County Tourism Office. If they get enough certified signatures by Aug. 13, the issue would be on the November ballot.
“We’ve been working on this for a couple of years,” Blowen said. “There are spots around the county that are dry surrounded by areas that are wet and that doesn’t seem fair.”
May can see firsthand how it could help businesses, he said.
“When I rent to people, I look to them as partners because we each have skin in the game and investment. I believe it is important for each of us to share, assist and help each other succeed,” he said. “We started doing the work on Sam’s Truck Stop, and Josie’s came in and finished it. I think they have been a nice addition to the community.
“But I think it is unfair that they are caught between a 1.75-mile stretch of real estate on South 25 that can’t sell alcohol. Someone can go on the property next to them in Fayette County, build on the adjacent lot and sell alcohol. Go 1.75 miles north to the city limits and they sell alcohol. Explain how that is fair?”
The success of Josie’s is what is foremost on his mind.
“They had to cut back their hours from 8 to 3. If they could sell beer and wine they could be open later,” May said. “They have to pay rent 24 hours a day, and at night if someone wants to have a cocktail, wine or beer with dinner, they can’t there. That was the first sign to me that it wasn’t fair.”
Blowen is hopeful the initiative would be approved to help with fundraisers at Old Friends and the possibility of a special bourbon to benefit the farm.
“Right now we have to get a special license if we want to have beer at an event, and Country Boy Brewing is very supportive of donating beer, but they have to give it away,” Blowen said. “We usually have about four events a year that this would impact.”
Both Blowen and May said they believe approval would be an economic stimulus in other parts of the county.
“I would think areas around Stamping Ground and Sadieville would be receptive to it, especially where Interstate 75 runs right by Sadieville. That would be perfect for a restaurant there or a store to sell groceries if they could sell alcohol,” Blowen said.
Stamping Ground Mayor Keith Murphy would not be opposed to having the issue on the ballot, he said.
“We are not interested in having a bar per se in Stamping Ground from a law enforcement perspective, but I think people would be interested in having a store that could do package sales,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why Stamping Ground couldn’t benefit from that if that is what the community votes for. That tax revenue would benefit our infrastructure. We have plenty of things we’d like to do and develop but you have to pay of it.”
He also believes it would increase interest in investing in Stamping Ground. Currently, the town has a vacant grocery store, and all involved in the petition believes that if alcohol sales were allowed, that could be a more profitable venture.
Scott County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington is aware of the petition drive, he said.
“I would like to see it go to a vote to let the residents decide if they want that. I think about our neighbors in Stamping Ground and Sadieville, and especially what Sadieville could do being right along the interstate,” he said.
The fact Georgetown has allowed alcohol sales for nearly 10 years could help a county measure pass.
“It’s not like this is something new,” Covington said. “It’s more of a convenience for people in the county if it passes.”
Approval would not change the culture of the county, May said.
“We are kind of surrounded by alcohol sales in other counties and it has not had a big impact on the quality of life there,” he said. “There are lots of reasons it makes sense. I’ve talked to people who were opposed to Georgetown going wet who now say it didn’t work out the way they thought it would.”
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.