Will Trigg go wet?
by Justin McGill, Executive Editor -- jmcgill@cadizrecord.com
Sep 02, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series of stories designed to inform Trigg County voters on the Sept. 29 referendum to repeal prohibition in the county.

If the county’s citizens vote in favor of repealing prohibition Sept. 29, Trigg County will become the third Kentucky county with its largest city smaller than Class 4 to vote itself “wet.”

Cadiz is a Class 5 city, larger than sixth-class Campton in Wolfe County and slightly larger than fifth-class Brandenburg in Meade County, both of which have voted wet in recent years.

Since a petition submitted by Grow Trigg, the group seeking to end prohibition here, was ruled valid last month, Trigg Judge-Executive Stan Humphries has been in contact with the Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control to gather information on what a “wet” vote could mean for the county.

“Cadiz is a fifth-class city, and that’s where some of the controversy comes in concerning what may or may not be permissible,” Humphries said. “No precedent has been set in the state for something like this.”

No county-wide alcohol referendum in Kentucky has passed since Union County voted to allow alcohol sales in 2007.

“The most recent elections, like Kuttawa and Dawson Springs, have been for by-the-drink sales in restaurants only,” Humphries said. “We find ourselves in a unique circumstance because our referendum is across the board.”

Class 5 cities in Kentucky have a population from 1,000 to 2,999. Cadiz, at the 2000 census, had a population of 2,373.

Most current ABC statutes apply only to first- through fourth-class cities.

If it passes ...

• Humphries said the election should be certified within the same week of the referendum. If the county votes “yes,” individual voting precincts in the county would have the option of petitioning for a “dry” vote within that precinct. That process could begin immediately after the election is certified.

“If the county votes to go wet, then that goes for the whole county regardless of how each precinct votes in the Sept. 29 election,” Humphries said. “But a precinct could go through the process of petitioning to go dry again. In theory, we could have a wet vote and precinct-by-precinct begin to go dry.”

• After the election, the county fiscal court would begin the process of determining the county’s alcohol ordinances.

“The court would set paramaters on licensing fees, hours of operation, Sunday sales, advertising, tax levies and other things,” Humphries said. “There would not be an issue where the fiscal court could keep the will of the people from taking place, and that’s been brought up in conversation somehow in different places. We would have the obligation to have those things outlined within 60 days of certification.”

Because Cadiz is a fifth-class city, the county would bear the burden of creating and administering local ordinances, Humphries said.

“We’d work with the city, but they would pass any ordinances,” Humphries said.

• Per ABC regulation, the county would be eligible for one “package” store per 2,300 residents. Trigg’s population at 2000 census was 12,597, meaning the county could legally have five of those stores.

Humphries said package store owners would be required to pay a $400 license fee each year in addition to other state fees.

ABC would advertise for package license applications for 30 days and determine which applicants would be chosen.

There would be no limit on the number of retail beer licenses, which would cost $200 initially and $150 for renewal each year. The county may charge up to $400 for the initial fee. The state has no quota on retail beer licenses.

Humphries said establishments like gas stations that might apply for beer licenses would be required to stock at least $5,000 in grocery items.

“It would limit some gas stations and smaller markets that would not qualify because of that statute,” Humphries said.

• Trigg County could not have bars as defined by ABC statue, but ABC’s beer license allows for beer to be consumed at locations that have one.

“That means you could essentially have a ‘beer hall’ unless a fee set by local ordinance was attached so high that it was unattainable,” Humphries said.

Establishments like grocery stores with a beer license could designate a location on its premises for consumption, but Humphries said that wouldn’t be likely to happen in Trigg County because those stores would be required to employ baggers over 20 years old.

• Restaurants would not be eligible to sell distilled spirits by the drink because Cadiz is a fifth-class city. Humphries said ABC currently has no statute concerning whether a fifth-class city in a wet county could apply for hardship to allow those sales.

However, restaurants that make at least 50 percent of their revenue from food sales and have a seating capacity of at least 50 could have a beer license and a separate license to sell wine by the drink.

“Some people have talked about the possibility of some chain restaurants with alcohol sales, and I don’t think that’s been clearly defined,” Humphries said. “Nobody has approached the county along those lines.”

• Humphries said there’s a chance the fiscal court would consider providing more funds to the Sheriff’s Department for additional deputies if the vote passes.

“Both sides have given numbers that show favoritism to their side,” Humphries said. “We always want to keep the Sheriff’s office as well-staffed as possible. This may be one of those things that could cause a need for that, but we don’t know yet.”

If it fails ...

If the county votes “no,” another election of this type could not be held before Sept. 29, 2012.

Lasting impact

Humphries said, “I’ve tried to do what this job dictates, and that’s to represent the people of the county.” He said his goal has been to remain as neutral as possible and listen to the argument of both sides.

Now, he said he hopes residents of Trigg County will focus on the facts of the issue as Sept. 29 nears.

“I think it’s only fair that people in the county understand what it is that they’re voting on,” Humphries said. “I know the issue has been divisive and caused some struggles from within the county. My hope is that the days spent leading up to the referendum will be spent debating the facts and that this issue doesn’t leave permanent scars among residents. We all have our ideas about which way we want to vote, but it is part of the Democratic process.”

• Monday, Cadiz Police Chief Hollis Alexander released statistics on alcohol-related charges in the city in the last two years. In that time period, the police department recorded 140 arrests for driving under the influence (four under the age of 21), 49 for alcohol intoxication, 30 for operating a motor vehicle with a DUI suspended license, 11 for public intoxication, 34 for being in possession of an open alcohol container, six for possession of alcohol by a minor and one for drinking in public places.

“Per capita, our numbers are just like they are anywhere else,” said Alexander, who estimated local residents accounted for roughly 75 percent of those DUI arrests.

Alexander, who has been chief for 13 years, with the department for 16 years and is a former member of the Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force, said he does not anticipate a significant rise in those statistics if Trigg County votes wet.

“Package stores won’t impact these numbers at all because, if they do their job correctly, possession by a minor shouldn’t go up at all, and I don’t see the other numbers changing that much,” Alexander said. “If we went back five years, you wouldn’t see those numbers fluctuate one way or the other.”

• Trigg County Sheriff Randy Clark said he couldn’t give his opinion on the alcohol issue as his position requires him to be neutral, but he did say that the fact that Trigg County is surrounded by wet or moist counties probably contributes to the county’s DUI problem.

“There are, unfortunately, people that will drive when they’re DUI,” Clark said.

• Cadiz Mayor Lyn Bailey said he isn’t 100 percent sure what role the city will have if the referendum passes, although he thinks the city and county will both have to pass separate ordinances.

“That’s the way we understand it, but I’ve also heard we may not have any say so ,” Bailey said.

Cadiz City Councilman Manuel Brown said he doesn’t think alcohol will bring much revenue into the county if the referendum passes, and that there are many companies that wouldn’t come to Trigg County anyway due to its size.

“I’ve talked to some police officers, and they don’t seem to think that [alcohol-related] arrests will increase that much,” Brown said. “But I feel like if it’s available, then … more people are going to be using alcohol … but I could be wrong.”

(Cadiz Record reporter Franklin Clark contributed to this story. )
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