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ISSUE: Two alcohol vote petitions
OUR VIEW: Elections could be simultaneous
As Hardin County’s three largest cities welcome new liquor stores and become accustomed to beer sales in groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores, interest continues to surface regarding additional alcohol sales options.
Kentucky’s complex alcohol-authorization laws may confuse voters but one reality is unchanged. The legislature insists alcohol sales be determined at the ballot box. Thus, Hardin County faces two more petition drives aimed at new voting measures.
The Y.E.S. group, which successfully campaigned last year for package sales in Radcliff, Elizabethtown and Vine Grove, is back with an effort that would allow establishment of bars in Elizabethtown.
Basically, the measure would remove food sales restrictions that limit by-the-drink sales to restaurant settings.
Eliminating the seating requirement is considered a tool to enhance downtown development of more intimate dining settings. It also could allow for neighborhood pubs.
Because Radcliff identifies itself as a second-class city, based on population, bars already are permitted under last year’s vote.
The Y.E.S. measure only impacts Elizabethtown so only Elizabethtown residents would be eligible should a vote be scheduled.
The second petition under way would require a vote across all of Hardin County. Businesses situated in Sonora and Glendale started the drive and would make all of the county wet.
According to state alcohol-control experts, if approved, the concept would give all of Hardin County full status regarding alcohol sales. That covers convenience sales of malt beverages, package stores, restaurant offerings and bars.
The latest questions about liquor now are accompanied with cries about fairness. If Radcliff can authorize full-fledged bars, why not Elizabethtown or even Vine Grove? If restaurants and businesses in the incorporated cities can benefit from the community’s thirst for adult beverages, why not smaller towns along the side roads?
Fairness is not a question here. These potential elections are not and should not be about the business climate as much as the community climate.
What residents want — or more specifically what voters want — is the purpose of a local option vote.
Competing businesses concerned about a “level-playing field” complicate the issue. There never will be a fully level playing field.
Quaint, personal bistro settings and large, franchise restaurants both offer meals and service but they are not the same. Menus differ, food quality differs, service levels differ and the overall dining experience for patrons differs as a result. These are not measures of inequality. They are measures that drive choice.
City businesses face greater licensing burdens and higher property taxes, including a prepared food tax in Elizabethtown. Should those measures be equalized as well? No rural restaurant owner has launched a petition drive asking for equal taxes to “level the playing field.”
Some diners will choose to drive a bit further for atmosphere or price point. Others opt for convenience or perceived quality. Yes, and some are influenced by alcohol availability.
Restaurants established outside cities with approved liquor sales are not forced to operate there. The location choice offers its own rewards.
If a business decries a lack of alcohol sales, they are most likely complaining about a lack of alcohol revenue.
Based on present alcohol availability, continual discussion regarding expanded sales is about money: Who’s making it and how much?
Speaking of money, these ballot measures cost county government and therefore all residents, whether you vote or not. Let’s hope the two groups can cooperate to schedule their special elections simultaneously.
Assuming both can raise the necessary amount of signatures in the allotted time, a single election day would reduce the cost to the county clerk’s office and be a cooperative display of goodwill and common sense.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.