Georgetown votes to expand alcohol sales

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 31, 2012 

Georgetown residents voted Tuesday to expand alcohol sales and thus end beer runs to wet territories across the county line.

In unofficial returns, the vote was 3,175 to 1,258 in favor of allowing package sales of alcohol at groceries and convenience stores, a margin of 71.6 percent to 28.4 percent. Unincorporated Scott County will remain dry despite the result.

Voters approved alcohol sales in larger restaurants in 2000, but package sales had been prohibited. If people wanted to buy a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine, they typically went to Fayette County or elsewhere.

That meant potential tax revenue left the city of 29,000. Like many other cities, Georgetown has lost revenue since the 2008 recession.

Rodney Vinegar, chairman of the Georgetown Economic Development Committee, a group of business owners that distributed a petition to put the issue on the ballot, said he thought the overwhelming yes vote was "fantastic."

"We created a very positive campaign. It got a lot of people out," Vinegar said.

The campaign focused on getting voters 40 and younger to the polls by using a Facebook page to answer questions and explain what a "yes" vote would mean.

Vinegar and others also focused on expanded sales as a means of increasing tax revenue, and as a way to bring more events to the city.

Meanwhile, Georgetown pediatrician Horace Hambrick, an opponent of expanded alcohol sales, said he was surprised by the margin of victory.

"Psychologically, people are used to seeing alcohol in town (at restaurants), and it's not that big an issue," Hambrick said. "Truthfully, it's a different community than it was 15 years ago."

Hambrick and his wife, Willow, had argued that alcohol did not need to be any more accessible than it is now. They saw expanded alcohol sales as making drinks more available to young people, leading to problems with underage drinking and other health and safety problems.

"We'll hope there won't be any bad consequences," Horace Hambrick said.

Expanded sales won't begin immediately. The vote will be certified Friday, and the city will go wet about 60 days after that.

Tuesday's vote will allow the opening of beer pubs where customers can sample a variety of brews.

The vote also means Georgetown will be allowed to have "temporary licenses" in which a fair, festival or carnival would be allowed to sell beer or wine for no more than 30 days within the city limits. The temporary licenses will have to be issued in conjunction with a civic or charitable event.

The vote was also a victory for Kroger, which is building a new store off the U.S. 460 Bypass.

Georgetown College, a private liberal-arts school with a Southern Baptist heritage, took a neutral position on expanded sales.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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