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Elizabethtown may not be eligible for bars and breweries because of its fourth-class status, but it did not stop voters from sending a message that they are ready for increased alcohol availability.
Expanded alcohol sales passed with 60 percent of the vote. The measure passed by more than 1,000 votes on an issue that had grown more contentious and divisive as Oct. 4 approached. The final results showed 3,051 voted in favor of expanded alcohol sales while 2,021 voted no.
The measure carried in all 14 precincts.
The measure also was successful in Radcliff and Vine Grove, signaling a clean sweep for Yes for Economic Success.
Elizabethtown now will have access to package liquor store licenses as well as retail beer licenses, which can be obtained by convenience stores and grocery stores as long as they maintain $5,000 worth of inventory in groceries and food-related products.
Brad Richardson, executive director of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce and a leader in the Y.E.S. movement, said the turnout and margins exceeded expectations and indicated Hardin County may be undergoing a maturation process by welcoming a new economic tool that can attract new businesses, economic development opportunities and keep local money in Hardin County that had been spent on alcohol in neighboring counties.
“Obviously, we’re very pleased with the job the Y.E.S. committee did in getting the vote out,” he said.
Richardson said it could reap some short-term benefits by luring in potential developers and businesses that were on the fence before.
“It’s going to help us,” Richardson said. “It’s going to give us opportunities we never had before.”
Richardson also disputed notions by the opposition that it will create a whirlwind of societal ills that will degrade the community. He said the majority of adults who use alcoholic beverages are responsible in their use, and increases in drunken driving and DUIs are not as likely as some claim.
But Jeff Harris, pastor of Lincoln Trail Baptist Church, said the choice to allow expanded alcohol sales has unleashed a “serpent” within the county that has never before been witnessed, and the cities will be left to deal with the consequences.
“When you play with a snake you get bit, and that’s what we’re dealing with,” he said.
Harris admittedly was disappointed with the outcome, but said he was encouraged and excited by the efforts of those who actively went to the polls to vote. Harris said they were determined to stand for the right thing and can say they maintained their integrity.
“Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove are the losers in this election,” he said.
Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb said opponents of expanded alcohol sales cannot make a push for dry status for three years.
Mayor Tim Walker said he was surprised by the turnout, but the city will actively work to get ordinances and regulations in place to regulate and enforce the expanded alcohol laws.
Walker admitted the outcome was shocking.
“I was surprised it was that wide of a margin,” he said. “Either way, I thought it would be closer than that.”
Richardson, too, was shocked but said Y.E.S. may use the momentum to launch additional petition drives in Elizabethtown and Vine Grove for a second election, which would allow for liquor by the drink in bars and other venues. Richardson said Y.E.S. also may lobby the state to modify its alcohol laws concerning fourth-class cities.
“Not much more I can add than wow,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.