Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 21, 2012

Getting wetter

Voters in two more Kentucky cities approve alcohol sales

The Independent

ASHLAND — It was 2-to-1 in support of expanded alcohol sales in Kentucky Tuesday as voters in Murray and Franklin voted to go from “moist” to “wet” while Marshall County voters opted to stay “dry.”

While none of Tuesday’s votes will have the slightest impact on this corner of Kentucky, they are yet another indication of changing attitudes regarding the sale of alcohol in the state.

The arguments in support of allowing the sale of alcohol in Murray, Franklin and Marshall County were identical to those made for the sale of alcohol in this part of Kentucky, including the 1981 vote that allowed the sale of alcohol in four downtown Ashland precincts that have since been reduced to two precincts.

As they did in Ashland, supporters in Murray, Franklin and Marshall County contended allowing the sale of alcohol would lead to increased economic development. That certainly proved true in Ashland. Restuarants like Applebees, O’Charley’s, Outback, Ruby Tuesday’s, Texas Roadhouse and others that sell liquor by the drink simply would not be here if this city were still “dry.”

However, the economic impact of much more recent votes to allow the sale of liquor by the drink at large restaurants in Boyd County and Russell has been much less dramatic. Still, having the option to sell liquor is an economic development  tool that has attracted a few businesses to Russell and to Boyd County and we think it will be an even more effective tool when the economy improves.

Like Russell and all of Boyd County outside of the two “wet” Ashland precincts, voters in Murray and Franklin had previously agreed to go ”moist.”

Erin Carrico, executive director of the Murray Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the decision would benefit the area. “I think it has the potential to provide new economic opportunities in the tourism sector,” Carrico said.

The vote to go from “moist” to “wet” in Franklin, along the Tennessee border south of Bowling Green, was not even close, being approved by a nearly 2-1 margin.

“Instead of driving to Portland (Tenn.) or Bowling Green, we might as well give our money right back to Franklin instead of doing that. That’s a big reason,” said Dawn Cosby, who voted for the proposal.

Advocates for alcohol sales in Marshall County, which is in far western Kenrucky and has Benton as its county seat, spent about $25,000 on advertising, while opponents spent about $50,000.

“It is a victory for everyone,” said Keith Travis, who is affiliated with Say No Now.

Karen Wommack of Marshall 1st, a group that supported sales, said she might try to bring the issue back up at a later date. “Marshall County is such a good place, but they just don’t realize what they’re missing here,” she said.

Whether counties and towns hundreds of miles from here are wet or dry is of little concern to us, but Tuesday’s three votes are a good way to gauge public attitudes, which are definitely shifting in favor of legal alcohol sales.