published Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Summerville voters to decide on liquor

Summerville, Ga., City Councilman Dale Housch doesn't think restaurant-goers ever have been able to buy a cocktail with their meal in Chattooga County. At least not during his lifetime.

"To my knowledge, it's never been legal," Housch, 66, said. "But I'm still a young man."

If Housch is right that liquor by the drink has never been allowed in the county, then history could be made March 19.

That's the date that the Summerville City Council unanimously picked to put liquor by the drink before voters in Summerville, the county seat.

"We made the motion to put it before the people and let them decide," Housch said. "We're looking at different avenues for revenue, and somebody suggested it."

Summerville doesn't levy property tax on its residents. The city's main source of revenue is the sale of water and natural gas.

If the liquor-by-the-glass measure passes, the city would get some money from sales tax on drinks and from selling liquor permits, Housch said.

Liberalization of liquor sales also could make Summerville a more desirable location for a new restaurant, according to Housch. Some chain restaurants won't open where liquor sales are forbidden.

"We're just trying to look ahead, just in case that might be holding somebody back from wanting to move in," he said.

The sale of beer and wine by the glass -- but not distilled spirits -- was legalized only about three years ago in Summerville, he said. At least two restaurants in town now offer beer and wine.

Outside Summerville, there's no sale of any alcoholic beverage by the glass in Chattooga County, Housch said, though the city of Lyerly allows package sales.

Former Summerville City Councilman Jimmy Bryant hopes the city's voters reject liquor by the glass March 19.

"We have so many deaths from drunk driving," said Bryant, a retired Baptist minister. "We ask for people not to drink and drive. Then we have a restaurant sell alcohol to people who are going to drive. To me, that's just asinine."

Neither man wanted to lay odds on the likelihood of voters approving the measure.

March 19 is a statewide election date. It's also when Chattooga County's voters will decide whether or not to renew a special purpose location option sales tax of 1 cent per $1 to fund a list of projects. That project list still is being drafted.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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