Commission approached about allowing alcohol sales in the county

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/5/17

A rural businessman asked Monday about how to get alcohol sales in the county, leading one commissioner who has also looked into a possible alcohol vote to say that municipalities who already have alcohol sales could not vote in a county “wet-dry” referendum.

That statement seems to be correct, based on state law.

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Commission approached about allowing alcohol sales in the county

Posted

A rural businessman asked Monday about how to get alcohol sales in the county, leading one commissioner who has also looked into a possible alcohol vote to say that municipalities who already have alcohol sales could not vote in a county “wet-dry” referendum.

That statement seems to be correct, based on state law.

George Hicks of Pumpkin Center approached the commission about getting county alcohol sales. After the meeting, he said he wants to open a convenience store at the intersection of Highway 269 and Pumpkin Center Cutoff Road in District 4.

Hicks said the business also had a restaurant inside that he would also hope to reopen one day.

During the meeting, Hicks said the proposed site was the only store in Pumpkin Center and he had purchased it to reopen it. The business was known for years as Gilbert’s, Hicks said.

“I want to see about alcohol sales where I can sell beer,” he said. Everyone on that end of the county goes to Alliance or Birmingport for alcohol, he said, meaning Walker County loses revenue.

“I’m the last store in the county on that end,” he said. “If I could get the store opened back up and sell beer or what have you, it would bring a lot of revenue back to the county. But I don’t know how to go about getting alcohol sales. I know the county is dry but the municipalities, a lot of them have gone wet now. I’m just not real sure about what I need to do. I’m actually looking for advice, if nothing else,” in either getting that area or the whole county wet, possibly through a vote during one of the 2018 elections.

The primary election is June 5, the primary runoff is July 17 and the General Election is Nov. 6, according to the state’s administrative calendar for next year’s elections.

Chairman Jerry Bishop said petitions would be needed, based on a percentage of a previous vote. He said the vote would be countywide.

Jasper, Carbon Hill, Sumiton and Dora are currently the only municipalities in Walker County which are wet. State law seems to indicate voters in those cities could not vote in a county wet-dry referendum.

Section 28-2A-1 of the Code of Alabama states, “All other laws to the contrary notwithstanding, the electors residing within the corporate limits of any such municipality that has become wet pursuant to a municipal option election held under this article shall not be entitled to vote in any subsequent county election or special method referendum held to determine if the county in which such municipality is located shall become wet. The question of whether such county shall become wet shall be decided by the electors of such county residing outside the corporate limits of such wet municipality as otherwise provided by law.” 

Any municipality with a population of 1,000 people or more can vote to go wet in the state. An election is called in the city once a petition in presented with 30 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last preceeding general election of the municipality.

For the counties, Section 28-2-1, states, “Any county in the state may change its classification from wet to dry or from dry to wet under this section in the following manner: Upon the petition of 25 percent of the number of voters voting in the last preceding general election being filed with the probate judge of the county, the probate judge must call an election for the county to determine the sentiment of the people as to whether or not alcoholic beverages can be legally sold or distributed in the county.”

The election will be held not less than 82 days, nor more than 97 days, from the date of the filing of the petition. The costs of the election would be paid for from the county’s General Fund.

According to the law, “On the ballot to be used for such election the question shall be in the following form: ‘Do you favor the legal sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages within this county? Yes ____ No ____.’” At least two years must pass after a wet-dry election before another countywide wet-dry vote can be held.

During the meeting, District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams — who said the are in question at one time might have been in District 3 before redistricting — told Hicks, “I have been personally looking into a county alcohol sales tax. Initially I was thinking it probably wouldn’t pass, because already the largest four cities in Walker County are already wet. They would be against it. But according to law, if we have a countywide wet-dry referendum, then the cities which are already wet, like Jasper, Dora and Sumiton, they cannot vote in it. It takes them out of the equation.

“The only ones who can vote in it are the cities which are dry right now and the rest of the outlying county. I agree with you. It would bring in some revenue into Walker County. Wet-dry is kind of like bingo. You have this many against it and this many for it. Personally, since you can buy it pretty much anywhere anyway, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.” Hicks said he didn’t see why the county shouldn’t be wet at this time, noting the four cities that have gone wet.

Commissioners have discussed ways to raise revenue in the county in light of its financial situation, which led to a failed 1-cent sales tax referendum in August and a number of budget cuts that followed. The commission is planning to hold a review of the situation as early as January.