Cham­ber mem­bers sup­port al­co­hol by the drink

The Covington News - - Front page - By Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­news.com

Lo­cal busi­nesses over­whelm­ingly sup­port cre­ation of a “liquor by the drink” or­di­nance in un­in­cor­po­rated Newton County, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey of mem­ber busi­nesses con­ducted by the Cov­ing­ton/Newton County Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Of 209 busi­nesses sur­veyed, 88 per­cent said they would sup­port an “or­di­nance that al­lowed al­co­hol sales in restau­rants, ho­tels and other preap­proved es­tab­lish­ments (and/or se­lect over­lay zon­ings) in un­in­cor­po­rated Newton County.”

“Growth for Newton County has been stag­nant in the past year. Taxes go to coun­ties around us that al­low this prac­tice,” re­sponded one busi­ness. All re­sponses were anony­mous. “It is hard to en­tice cor­po­rate and in­dus­trial lo­ca­tions if they do not have fa­cil­i­ties avail­able that pro­vide op­tions for en­ter­tain­ing clients.”

Other re­spon­dents said sim­i­lar or­di­nances have helped other cities at­tract chain restau­rants, while a few said they would only sup­port an or­di­nance that limited bythe-drink sales to cer­tain ap­proved, namely denser, zon­ing dis­tricts.

Most re­spon­dents, 94 per­cent, said an or­di­nance should be put to a vote in a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum, and 88 per­cent said the cham­ber should sup­port a ref­er­en­dum.

“This is­sue is cen­tral to our eco­nomic devel­op­ment ef­forts. You have to take a stand and en­cour­age pas­sage,” said one busi­ness.

Other busi­nesses said they felt the cham­ber should re­main im­par­tial on the is­sue, while some felt the cham­ber should sup­port a ref­er­en­dum

but not nec­es­sar­ily liquor sales. Sev­eral sim­ply said, “Let the vot­ers de­cide.”

Re­gard­ing al­low­ing Sun­day sales, 73.2 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they would be in fa­vor.

“This is a non-ne­go­tiable re­quire­ment for most chain restau­rants,” one said.

How­ever, an­other busi­ness said, “I would strongly op­pose this. I think if this is in­cluded a lot of sup­port would go away.”

Cham­ber Pres­i­dent Hunter Hall said Mon­day that these sur­vey re­sults ce­ment the cham­ber’s po­si­tion of pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship on com­mu­nity is­sues. The cham­ber wants to sup­port the ex­pan­sion of re­tail op­tions and keep lo­cal tax dol­lars in Newton County. Like many of its mem­bers, the cham­ber would only sup­port al­co­hol by the drink sales if they were limited to ap­proved zon­ing ar­eas, Hall said.

Newton County al­lows re­tail sales of beer and wine, but not liquor re­tail sales nor by-the-drink sales of any form of al­co­hol. In Au­gust, the Newton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted 32 against hav­ing a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum on al­co­hol by the drink on the Nov. 2 bal­lot.

Com­mis­sion­ers said at the time that they had in­suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion about the po­ten­tial ef­fects of an al­co­hol or­di­nance change to make a de­ci­sion, and that they wanted to hold pub­lic hear­ings be­fore de­cid­ing on whether to have a ref­er­en­dum.

The cham­ber is at­tempt­ing to re­cruit re­tail stores, some­thing that very few com­mu­ni­ties do. Re­tail or­ga­ni­za­tions, un­like in­dus­tries, are not typ­i­cally pur­sued by com­mu­ni­ties, but usu­ally lo­cate in ar­eas that sim­ply have a cer­tain num­ber of rooftops and a cer­tain level of per capita and dis­pos­able in­come.

Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Shan­non Davis said Mon­day that re­tail stores want to lo­cate in shop­ping cen­ters with other stores, and restau­rants are an im­por­tant el­e­ment.

“In your ma­jor re­tail hubs, you need restau­rants so that cus­tomers can shop and eat. Stores don’t want shop­pers leav­ing for din­ner,” Davis said.

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