Strong majority votes in city alcohol sales

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Brookhaven won’t remain dry much longer – voters have approved the sale of alcohol within the city limits by a strong majority.

During Tuesday’s municipal elections, a referendum on whether to allow liquor sales in Brookhaven passed with nearly 69 percent voting to support liquor sales while about 31 percent voted to remain dry.

Kathy Behan, one of the organizers behind the petition that forced the referendum, was obviously pleased with Tuesday’s outcome.

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“I’m just glad we won,” she said. “I think it’s going to move Brookhaven forward.”

Behan did count herself a little pleasantly surprised by the margin of support garnered by the “yes” side.

“I really thought we were going to win, because I thought that’s what most people wanted, but I was surprised by the number of people that wanted it,” she said.

Bill Sones, who helped lead a push against the referendum and had encouraged a “no” vote called himself a little disappointed but not surprised by Tuesday’s outcome.

“The people have spoken on that issue and we’ll be moving foreword together,” Sones said.

Proponents of the move can’t break out the bottles just yet, though, at least not legally. Alcohol sales won’t be allowed in Brookhaven until aldermen have drafted and enacted an ordinance regulating sales.

That process likely won’t begin until sometime after the next board of aldermen takes office in July.

Though a thicket of alcohol-related regulations are enforced and overseen by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control division, aldermen will have some options in drafting an ordinance.

They are explicitly allowed by statute, for example, to restrict alcoholic sales to by by-the-glass transactions in restaurants.

With a broader ordinance, they could, though, allow package stores.

There’s some uncertainty as to whether the board’s decision, once approved, can be amended later.

At this juncture, Behan isn’t yet advocating that aldermen take a particular stance in the ordinance.

“I’m happy it just got to this point,” she said. “I have personal feelings about how it should go but I think everyone who voted for it should contact their alderman about what they want.”

Sones said he believes the referendum was “sold” as a means to attract new restaurants and thus he advocates that bars and liquor stores not be allowed in Brookhaven.

Outside the Brookhaven city limits, Lincoln County will remain dry.

The “yes” votes on liquor won every city ward. The thinnest margin between the two sides was in Ward Five, where about 56 percent of voters backed alcohol sales and about 44 percent opposed alcohol sales.

The highest margin of support for the referendum came from Ward One, where almost 84 percent voted in favor of liquor sales.

Tuesday’s liquor referendum occurred under a law enacted last year allowing municipalities with a population of at least 5,000 to hold alcohol referendums without county residents participating.

Brookhaven joins cities such as Corinth and New Albany that have voted to allow alcohol sales under the new statute.