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Year goes down smoothly

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Editorial: March 24, 2013

ISSUE: Year one of expanded alcohol sales

OUR VIEW: More revenue, fewer problems than anticipated

A full year’s experience with expanded alcohol sales in Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove has come and gone. By all measures the results have been more, while at the same time less than some expected and others warned of.

First, the good news: Total revenue received through regulatory fees, license fees and fines related to expanded alcohol sales in Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove have enhanced coffers in each city. The added revenue helps each city stretch their general funds and police department budgets.

New licenses issued following the October 2011 referendum have brought Elizabethtown’s total to 25 restaurant, 12 package store and more than 40 malt beverage sales licenses. In Radcliff, where its second-class city designation and wet status removed the previous 70-percent food sales requirement from restaurants serving adult beverages, only one liquor-by-the-drink restaurant license has been issued. The total number of licenses stands at seven restaurants, nine package stores and 32 malt beverage retailers in Radcliff. Two package store and malt beverage licenses were issued in Vine Grove.

For Elizabethtown, alcohol-related fees far exceeded estimations through the sale of malt beverages and packaged spirits. More than $822,000 was collected during the year. The city originally estimated $596,000. Most of this gain came through a 5 percent regulatory fee allowed by state law because of Elizabethtown’s fourth-class designation.

Money generated through the fee must be earmarked for regulation and enforcement of alcohol laws in the city, and appropriately so. The money has been used to hire and equip six new police officers and a new administrative data position, all directly connected to the department’s enforcement of alcohol laws.

In addition, Elizabethtown and EPD contributed $15,000  to The Serenity Club, a local addiction counseling and recovery program. The city is considering requests from other local organizations that offer drug and alcohol treatment and prevention programs for future contributions from the fee.

Radcliff’s revenues on alcohol-related fees grew to $32,475 following the referendum, marking a growth of nearly $16,000. While gains were modest in Radcliff, every additional dollar in the city’s general fund is important.

After Elizabethtown voters chose not to allow bars in their city, Radcliff is positioned and working to draw new restaurants with business models that do not fall under the 70/30 food to alcohol sales restrictions.

Although calculations still are being conducted following a change with the city’s computer system, Vine Grove generated approximately $7,900 through fees associated with alcohol sales there.

Although some voted against and still disagree with the local option alcohol sales votes in the cities, the best news is that it has not brought along the scourge of burgeoning DUI-related wrecks or deaths, higher crime and social problems many feared would befall the area.

Yes, DUI arrests grew in Hardin County last year. But enforcement improved through additional officers with better training to detect impaired motorists on local roadways. And in many cases the arrests were drug-related DUIs, not solely alcohol cases. Statistics at the county detention center also show an increase in domestic violence arrests. But it’s hard to make any direct correlation between increased access to beer, wine and spirits with these.

While one year doesn’t make a trend, this first year’s experience can and should be viewed as a good start to what is hoped will be the continuation of more convenient accessibility to adult beverages by a responsible adult community.

 

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