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Now that the momentum of Fort Knox’s realignment is coming to an end, it’s time for Hardin County collectively, and residents of Vine Grove, Radcliff and Elizabethtown independently, to ask: “What’s next? How do we maintain, if not accelerate our momentum?”
Unfortunately, there is no panacea, no “next big thing” like BRAC on the horizon. But there are steps that can be taken to continue to best-position the community for economic growth. Approving local option alcohol sales can be one such potential economic development step.
Many opponents of expanded alcohol sales don’t see the issue this way. Rather, they view alcohol sales and consumption as a moral matter and point to what they perceive would be a diminished quality of life if greater access to alcohol were allowed in their neighborhood, instead of being restricted to sales in a neighboring county.
Opponents cite increased crime and drunken driving as likely outcomes of a yes vote. Some have asked publicly how a community that suffered the Carrollton bus crash, the most deadly drunken driving incident in American history, could consider making liquor readily available to those of legal age. That tragedy, however, did not occur as a result of a community being wet, dry or moist. In fact, the drunken driver lived in a dry county. It occurred because of the poor personal choice and illegal actions of a single individual.
Our support of expanded alcohol sales as one additional effective tool in the economic development toolbox should not be viewed as support of illegal sale, illegal use or abuse of alcohol.
As responsible adults making personal choices about whether or not we drink, we not only expect but demand that other adults act responsibly as well when it comes to their own individual choices regarding alcohol. If voters choose to approve expanded alcohol sales, we expect those who will open shop to sell beer, wine or spirits to follow the law as it allows. We expect adults who are of legal age to purchase and consume these beverages to follow the law when they do so individually. And with both sets of adults, those in front of and behind the counter, we expect that they keep alcohol away from others who are under age. If and when any individual fails to follow these laws and falls short of the expectations they are set in place to provide, we expect local law enforcement to hold them fully accountable.
Although we view this issue as a matter of economic development, we also understand and acknowledge the closely held views of those who oppose expanded alcohol sales for matters of personal morality or faith. No change in local status that might come about through a majority “yes” vote in this election will change their views or personal choice behaviors, nor should it. At the same time this community will be no more protected from the risks associated with illegal use or abuse of alcohol should a “no” vote prevail.
So our position boils down to what we see as the economic opportunity that can be gained.
Because of differences in city classification and population, approving expanded alcohol sales would mean different things to each of the three cities voting on the issue. Only Radcliff as a second-class city would have the immediate potential of true bars should voters approve expanded alcohol sales. And its city council proactively put in place ordinances limiting potential density, placement and prohibiting other “adult” activities. As forth-class cities, Vine Grove and Elizabethtown would have opportunities to relax alcohol limitations for restaurants and hotels, and could designate economic hardship areas to allow for other alcohol by the drink options. All three cities will have opportunities for retail beer sales.
The image of quaint and cozy bistros located in the cities is quite appealing. Elizabethtown and Vine Grove each have been engaged in long-term battles to recreate vibrant downtown districts, and Radcliff has its equal fair share of retail areas in need of new life. The ongoing discussions regarding the unique opportunities that could come with a sizeable convention center also quickly come to mind. The ability to serve adult beverages, we believe, would be an advantage that could support these and other such improvements in each area.
Saying yes to expanded alcohol sales will not, in itself, fill local coffers. While there would be a few thousand dollars in fees and taxes, and some retail and short-term construction jobs that would come through such approval, we see the advantages being more broadly defined.
The benefits could be measured by the success of a potential wedding planner who could set up a reception with champagne close to home; or in the hotels that could host receptions, banquets, reunions and Christmas parties for those who want to make their own choices about whether to drink; or by the new college graduate who returns to Hardin County to live and to work in a prosperous job, instead of moving to bigger cities or other states where more opportunity is present; or in the companies who don’t see roadblocks that cause them to wonder about a community’s tolerance of others.
Consider our view as you prepare to cast your vote on this issue. Challenge our position should you disagree, but rise above the childishness of calling morality into question because we exercise the expression of opinion that possibly differs from your own. And most importantly, vote.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.