Vote is about business, not simply alcohol

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Editorial: Dec. 30, 2012

THE ISSUE: Expanded alcohol vote in Elizabethtown
Another tool for economic development

Elizabethtown voters have an opportunity in the coming days to voice their position on expanded alcohol sales in the city. While forgotten in the holiday hoopla, the Jan. 8 local option election asks if the community is willing to provide licenses allowing local establishments to sell retail liquor by the drink to patrons without the state required food sale or seating restrictions for fourth-class cities.

Yes for Economic Success again successfully gathered the required number of signatures through a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot. Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb verified the petitions in October to allow the Jan. 8 election.

The vote’s impact is seen as much more than a convenience for restaurant operators. It is an opportunity for a new kind of vibrant community. Y.E.S. organizers and supporters view potential success on this issue to be a key step forward in economic development and the on-going effort to revitalize the downtown district of Elizabethtown, which has been stirring since the rebirth of the Historic State Theater, influence of the Heritage Council and interest of Elizabethtown city government.

Y.E.S. organizers and advocates agree eliminating the 70 percent food-to-alcohol sales restriction and 100-seat requirement in Elizabethtown would be a great tool to have in the city’s economic development toolbox.

There has been confusion expressed on this issue among Elizabethtown residents. Y.E.S. organizers say while collecting petition signatures many questioned the necessity of the election thinking the October 2011 expanded alcohol election had settled the issue. That wasn’t the case, however, because of Elizabethtown’s designation as a fourth-class city.

Both voter apathy and anxiety about this issue could block the potential development of the downtown business district. With its historic flavor and improved appearance, downtown could rival Bardstown or Bowling Green for an after-hours atmosphere. Some of the unique shops already in place could thrive from foot traffic generated by a few intimate eateries featuring fine food and fine wine or a similar bistro setting.

If voters who might support expand alcohol sales within the city fail to understand the need for the local option election, they simply won’t show up at the polls Jan. 8. Others might incorrectly perceive a vote of approval would automatically usher in bars and lounges. That hasn’t been the case in Radcliff following the October 2011 vote and it’s doubtful it will be in Elizabethtown if expanded alcohol sales are approved by voters in January.

We encourage Elizabethtown voters to see this for what it is. By casting a vote of approval Jan. 8, the stage will be set with an opportunity to position the downtown district for revitalization and economic redevelopment. And that’s an outcome all residents can support.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.