Alcoholic beverage sales referendum on ballot

Alcoholic beverage sales referendum on ballot

July 26th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

In addition to TSPLOST, every voter in Catoosa County will vote on several more referendums when they go to the polls Nov. 6.

The Catoosa County Board of Commissioners during its most recent regularly scheduled meeting agreed to place several separate items regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages on the general election ballot.

At issue will be the potential sale of distilled spirits, wine and beer by the drink for on-site consumption and the potential for Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages for either on- or off-site consumption within the unincorporated areas of the county.

Each will be voted on separately.

County Attorney Chad Young said any or all of the measures, if approved, would require the county to develop a comprehensive ordinance to control the sale and consumption of such beverages.

Councilmen Jim Cutler, Bobby Winters, Jeff Long as well as council Chairman Keith Greene, (Councilman DeWayne Hill was unable to attend the meeting) were unanimous in saying the public should have the final say in such matters.

Greene said the commissioners were neither condoning nor condemning the sale or use of alcoholic beverages.

"It leaves it up to the citizens," he said.

The sale of distilled spirits by the drink would permit the sale of liquor by the drink, which is now allowed in restaurants located in both Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold, to occur outside those municipal boundaries. Within those cities, the sale of distilled spirits, wine and malt beverages (beer) by the glass is restricted to establishments that derive at least half their gross sales from food, a requirement that excludes most bars and taverns.

A second referendum would regulate sales for on-site consumption of distilled spirtis, wine and malt beverages on Sundays within the county's unincorporated areas.

The third referendum would allow Sunday sales of malt beverages and wine for off-site consumption. The sale of such items is now allowed throughout the county at gas stations, convenience stores, groceries and tobacco/beverage stores on every day except Sunday.

Young said state legislators during their 2011 session approved the right of counties to regulate the retail package sale of alcoholic beverages between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Local officials noted that the sale on Sunday of alcoholic beverages of any sort for on-site consumption in restaurants would also mirror what is already allowed across the state line in Tennessee.

"This is why people travel to East Ridge, right across the state line, on Sunday," said Winters.

Another proposed referendum that could have provided something not now available anywhere within the county's borders - liquor stores that would sell distilled spirits for off-site consumption - was withdrawn, and not presented for a commission vote.

Currently, anyone wanting to buy a bottle of distilled spirits - vodka, Bourbon, Scotch, gin, etc. - must travel to Dalton or Chattanooga.

A referendum that would have allowed Sunday sales of wine and beer within Fort Oglethorpe was rejected by voters during municipal elections last November. No such referendum was included on the Ringgold municipal election ballot.