For the second time in five years, voters in the City of Whitesburg have given their nod of approval to a ballot initiative concerning the sale of alcohol.
“I think the vote demonstrated how the people who live in Whitesburg see a promising future for the city — an attitude that’s also shared by many who work here or have other connections to Whitesburg,” said Mark Kidd, a Whitesburg resident who organized the petition drive to put the sale of alcohol on the ballot.
Voters on Tuesday voted by a margin of more than two to one to approve the sale of alcohol without the requirement that a 100-seat restaurant must earn 70 percent of its income from the sale of food.
The vote was 229 for and 102 against. In West Whitesburg, 82 voted yes and 41 voted no. In East Whitesburg, 133 voted yes and 52 voted no. In Ermine, six voted yes and three voted no. Eight voted yes by absentee ballots and six voted no.
“I’m just elated it passed with the kind of margin it did,” said Whitesburg Mayor James W. Craft. “It demonstrates that the citizens of Whitesburg are forward-thinking people and can see all of the advantages of what we are doing.”
Depending on the actions of the Whitesburg City Council, the vote could open the way for the opening of a package store and the sale of beer at qualifying retail outlets in the city.
“I believe local control of alcohol licensing is going to be a useful tool for Whitesburg’s community development, and I’m glad to be living here,” said Kidd.
The council voted to adopt the original restaurant-only alcohol sales ordinance in May 2007 after voters approved the original issue in a special election. Since that time, the city has used tax receipts from alcohol sales to fund a number of purchases including the city-wide public address system used on holidays and special occasions, Christmas decorations in 2008, the addition of $60,000 in revenue to the general fund in 2008 for swimming pool and park repairs as well as equipment costs, 20 percent of the costs for the James Bates Pedestrian Bridge, $20,000 for dressing room improvements at the City Park (out of $83,000 added to the city budget in 2009), a new radio system with11 radios and repeaters to make it easier for Whitesburg City police officers to communicate with the Kentucky State Police at Hazard, and the city’s annual July 4 celebrations.
“Probably one of the big points about it is it will bring in tourism,” said Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward.