Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 24, 2013

Kenneth Hart: Make Sunday sales a reality

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — As even the most casual of racing fan is well aware, today marks both the kickoff of the NASCAR season and the running of the series’ biggest race, the Daytona 500.

One thing that means to the Tri-State is sports-themed eateries in communities like Ironton and Huntington will be packed with patrons scarfing down chicken wings and quaffing beers while watching stock car racing’s elite drivers slug it out on the high-banked turns of Daytona International Speedway.

Of course, that won’t be happening today in Ashland because Sunday alcohol sales are forbidden here. But it could be for other upcoming sporting events if voters in the Moore and Central precincts make the right decision.

And, given past columns I’ve written on the subject, it should come as no surprise to anyone I think the right decision, in this case, would be for voters in those two precincts to approve Sunday alcohol sales.

This is a great opportunity for Ashland to grow up, and for its residents to effect change that could have a huge positive impact on the city’s economic future.

The most obvious reason the city needs Sunday sales is it would make it more attractive to restaurants, particularly sports-themed establishments like those referenced above. Sunday is far and away the No. 1 day of the week for sports in America, which means places that depend on sports aren’t likely to locate in a community where they’re unable to serve beer on those days — particularly when there’s an abundance of other communities that will permit them do so.

Obviously, approval of Sunday sales doesn’t guarantee restaurant chains will beat a path to Ashland’s front door. However, city officials have said various eateries have expressed interest in locating here, only to have said interest evaporate when they found out they couldn’t offer their full menu seven days a week.

We do know the lack of Sunday sales caused Ashland to lose one such eatery to a community on the other side of the river.

Sunday liquor sales also would provide a boost to the eateries already here, and provide additional tax revenue for the city’s coffers as well. As a city official — who shall remain nameless, for obvious reasons — told me recently, money that restaurant operators can’t currently make from Sunday sales is money the city isn’t making as well.

As I’ve also stated in past columns, Sunday sales isn’t a religious issue, either, even though there are those who try to frame it as such. And, the reason it isn’t is no one whose religious beliefs prohibit drinking would be forced to compromise those beliefs in any manner should Sunday sales become reality.

If your religion frowns on alcohol consumption, then by all means don’t drink. But please don’t assume everyone in the community holds the same convictions as you do, or that your religions beliefs should have the force of law.

The specific question on Tuesday’s ballot will be: “Are you in favor of the sale of alcohol beverages on Sunday between the hours of 12 p.m. noon and 1 a.m. the following Monday?” (It’s important to note local officials have interpreted that only as applying to by-the-drink sales at restaurants, not package sales.)

For a better, more prosperous and more free Ashland, voters should answer that question with a loud and resounding “yes.”

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.