UPDATE: Dayton voters approve package liquor sales

UPDATE: Dayton voters approve package liquor sales

April 20th, 2017 by Ben Benton in Breaking News

Voters in Dayton, Tenn., on Wednesday gave a nod to package alcohol sales.

The vote margin was 2 to 1 with 66 percent of voters favoring the package sale of alcohol in the city, Rhea County Administrator of Elections Tom Davis said.

Turnout was even lighter than expected, Davis said. Dayton has 4,083 registered voters and 4,246 who were eligible to vote in Wednesday's election. Davis said the total vote in balloting was 422, or less than 10 percent of eligible voters.

"It's surprisingly low, disappointingly low," Davis said.

Besides the liquor question, he said there was little to interest voters.

A race for city mayor and two city council seats was also on the ballot, but Mayor Gary Louallen had no challenger and city councilmen Billy C. Graham and Steven E. Randolph were uncontested for their seats.

"When we started the process back in January, we were expecting at least twice the turnout," Davis said. "Of course, we didn't know who would be running [for city council]. We realized there would be a liquor referendum and thought that would bring more people out."

Davis suggested that voters might have been less interested because Dayton already has passed referendums in the last few years on liquor-by-the-drink and wine sales in grocery stores.

Otherwise, Wednesday's election had no balloting or technical problems, he said.

"We had a great crew working the election and they made it a whole lot easier for everybody," Davis said.

Now city leaders will have to get started on rules for opening a package liquor store in town, Dayton City Recorder Tom Solomon said.

"We plan on providing for no more than three locations," Solomon said. City officials have discussed some rules but were waiting on the outcome of the election before nailing down the details, he said.

"We'll have an application process and they'll have to meet state and local requirements," he said. "Then we'll let that selection process be undertaken by an independent auditor" in order to keep the city out of that part of the selection process.

Solomon said the selection might be made through a blind draw, but he said the actual process would be up to the independent firm.

The city started getting calls from prospective package sales vendors as soon as it was announced that the referendum was going on the ballot, Solomon said. City leaders will have to formulate the details now.

"We want to move as quickly as we can," he said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

This story was updated April 20 at 1:45 p.m. with more information.