Marion County voters had many decisions to make at the polls yesterday from choosing the next Tennessee Senator in a very heated race between Blackburn and Bredesen to choosing our state’s next Governor along with a few key local races. But one item was something many have wanted to see on a ballot for years… A referendum to allow liquor by the drink sales within the county.
In July, the Marion County Commission voted 12-1 to put the referendum on the ballot in the November election, and voters didn’t hesitate to say yes to allow it.
On the ballot, it was called “Consumption on the Premises Referendum” — which 6,081 voters said YES to allowing, to only 2,754 who opposed the referendum.
The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission says liquor by the drink licenses allow businesses to sell beverages with an alcoholic content at or above 8 percent.
Now that the referendum has been approved, officials say businesses who wish to offer these sales will have to pass a state screening process and meet a list of requirements to be able to obtain the license and begin sales.
Patrick O’Hagan, a member of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce said after the decision in July by the commission that he hopes the licenses will create a better business atmosphere in the area for restaurants and increase county revenue.
We’ve reached out to experts in business and marketing as well as the restaurant industry who all agree that one of the key reasons Marion County hasn’t seen an increase in major chain restaurants was due to the lack of this having already been passed in the county, citing that chains such as Logan’s Roadhouse, Applebee’s, Chili’s, and other similar restaurants who offer a bar may have very well passed Marion County by in the past because of this. Now that the referendum has passed, it opens the door for new growth in the county and potentially more choices in dining for Marion resident.
Marion County wasn’t the only place in the region who put this on the ballot at this election or had a similar referendum. In Bradley County, Cleveland voters said yes to a liquor store referendum. Voters in Tracy City also said yes to liquor by the drink as well as nearby Walker County and the City of LaFayette in North Georgia.
Somewhat related to our vote, Georgia was likely one of the biggest states putting alcohol on the ballot. The Peach State had long been known for having some of the most strict laws in the nation completely barring the sales of alcohol on Sunday. Former Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Senate killed several attempts there to pass bills allowing alcohol sales at stores on Sunday. Legislation allowing such sales finally passed in 2011 during outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal’s first year in office.
Georgians in 87 cities and counties across the state had the chance to decide on an earlier time for alcohol sales on Sundays. The Georgia General Assembly earlier this year passed a law, known as the “brunch bill,” that left it up to local residents to decide whether they want restaurants and wineries to sell alcohol beginning at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill into law in May.
Current law requires restaurants and stores to wait until 12:30 p.m. to begin selling beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays. Retail establishments still will have to wait until 12:30 p.m. to begin Sunday sales.
If voters approve the change, each government will decide when they want it to go into effect.
For example, the Atlanta City Council voted in August that the change would take place immediately if voters approve the earlier time — meaning restaurants could offer drinks beginning at 11 a.m. as soon as this Sunday.
Walker County and LaFayette also said YES to Sunday liquor sales while Dalton said YES to Sunday alcohol sales…period.