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Alcohol sales not necessarily a bad thing

The votes have been counted, and alcohol sales will be coming to Stanford.

Some folks are happy to hear this news, while others are not. In a town the size of Stanford, especially one located in the Bible Belt, this can be a very divisive issue. Some want to see their community grow and offer new businesses, including those selling alcohol, while others want to see their home town stay a nice, quiet place to live and raise a family.

Can both sides have their way? I think so.

I grew up in Irvine, Kentucky, a small little town in Estill County. For years, the town was dry and alcohol sales were forbidden. Growing up, I recall the presence of bootleggers in the community, and there are probably some in Lincoln County as well. If not, I’m sure there have been over the years.
People who wanted alcohol in Estill County but didn’t want to pay a bootlegger’s prices would make the 30-minute drive on Highway 52 to Richmond to purchase their drinks. Unfortunately, some would also drink while driving back home. This resulted in countless cases of driving under the influence over the years, as well as more than a few fatality accidents I can recall personally.

When alcohol sales were voted in for Irvine about five years ago, the community was no different than Stanford. Some groups were in favor while others were not. Still, the issue passed, and everyone had to live with that decision made by the majority of the voters.

As I was thinking about how things could develop for Stanford now that alcohol sales have been voted in for the community, I reached out to law enforcement in Irvine. Police Chief John Sturniolo is also the Alcoholic Beverage Control administrator in town, and he said he has seen changes since the vote passed, but they are positive changes. Sturniolo pointed out that while the community still has DUI offenses, very few of those are alcohol-related, with most now being related to drugs. He said there are noticeably fewer alcohol-related DUIs than before the vote. Those who want alcohol now simply pick it up in town and take it home, which is usually a short drive with no drinking on the way.

The Irvine Police Department has also benefited directly from the city’s wet status. In addition to stores that offer package sales of alcohol, the city also has some restaurants that have a liquor license. Those restaurants pay taxes on alcohol sales pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 243.075, and that tax money, by law, goes directly to the city’s police department and can be used for items such as police cruisers, computers, and much more – anything the department can use in enforcing laws that regulate alcohol.

Another Kentucky community that has recently added alcohol sales is Middlesboro in Bell County. The city clerk reports that in fiscal year 2017-2018, Middlesboro collected $29,809.17 in taxes as a result of the city’s alcohol sales status, which at the time was listed as moist, meaning only restaurants with a license could sell alcoholic beverages. The city’s alcoholic beverage administrator told me that when package liquor stores arrive following the recent election making the city wet – allowing package sales in liquor stores – instead of moist, that could mean potentially $120,000 to $150,000 more per fiscal year to be used by the local police department.

Tom Busic was police chief in Middlesboro until his recent retirement, and he told me his department was able to add three new police cruisers to the force, as well as providing his officers with Tasers, all from money provided from alcohol sales in the city.

Stanford will benefit, too. There will be that tax money, there will be some new businesses in town, and there will be some jobs added to the community. Lincoln County residents who want to buy alcohol will not have to drive to neighboring communities to buy it, and instead, they will stay home and support local businesses and local business owners. Maybe even your local business. They will not stop at an out-of-town gas station or restaurant if they don’t have to leave town in the first place to get something they want right here in Stanford.

These are just a couple of examples of towns that have seen a positive result from alcohol sales being offered to their citizens. I also know for a fact that neither town has become riddled with crime because of alcohol. Their main streets are not littered with alcohol bottles, and there are not bars overflowing with drunken patrons on the sidewalks. These are simply two towns where the majority of the residents decided it was time to give alcohol sales a chance, and life as most folks in each town know it has not changed.

I can’t predict the future, but I honestly believe Stanford will be no different. A couple of years from now we will still see a beautiful downtown area like we have today. Main Street will have the same businesses we have now, and maybe a few more.

We will see some improvements as our police department is able to afford new equipment, and potentially additional officers to better enforce the law. But in the end, even with alcohol being sold here, Stanford will continue to be a beautiful small town in the heart of Kentucky, and it will still be a great place to call home.