Tribune-Courier General Manager
Since an unsuccessful bid by the group Marshall 1st to legalize alcohol sales in the county last summer, several neighboring cities and counties have voted to go wet.
Just last week, Lyon County became the third governmental body in the region surrounding Marshall County to legalize alcohol sales. Murray and Princeton voters gave thumbs-up during municipal alcohol referendums.
The Murray Ledger and Times reported last week there have also been inquiries to the Calloway County Board of Elections regarding a county-wide referendum.
McCracken and Trigg counties have no prohibition on alcohol sales, while Graves and Livingston permit sales of alcohol by the drink at restaurants or golf courses.
The result is that Marshall is all but surrounded by “wet”neighbors.
“Marshall County needs to realize what is going on around us,”said Sissy Wommack, leader of Marshall 1st. “Our residents are leaving the county to patronize businesses that sell. That’s money being taken out of our county and spent elsewhere.”
Wommack says the Lyon vote last week is yet another example of a county that saw how important legalized alcohol is to growth in their community.
“They have a great deal of tourism-related businesses there and they see how important it will be to their growth,” said Wommack.
Look Ahead Lyon is the group that successfully promoted Lyon County’s vote to go wet.
“We are a group of individuals, business owners, and community leaders who believe the sale of alcohol in Lyon County will further enhance tourism, boost our economy, and encourage economic development allowing us to better compete with surrounding counties who already offer their residents and tourists a choice,” said Laura Manion, spokesperson for Look Ahead Lyon.
“It’s about bringing revenue and jobs home. It’s about local opportunities... not just for us but looking ahead... for future generations.”
Wommack also points to the reported success Murray has experienced since establishments began selling alcohol last fall.
“They are already seeing the revenue come in to the city and have experienced no problems as a result,” Wommack said. “We said over and over that we believed there would not be more alcohol related accidents and that has been proven in Murray already.
Randy Newcomb, Marshall County’s tourism director, said he is concerned that once Lyon County begins to see additional businesses emerge as a result of alcohol availability Marshall County businesses could be negatively impacted.
“It won’t hurt us at first, but when Lyon County begins to get new restaurants and attractions and starts to expand existing facilities, it will no doubt hurt Marshall County,” Newcomb said. “I applaud and congratulate Lyon County people who took a progressive step toward their future.”
Newcomb said Marshall County’s No.1 attraction is Kentucky Lake, and he believes that draw will remain intact for those wanting to fish and enjoy the water. When it comes to attracting vacationers, however, competition is tough, Newcomb said.
“With alcohol in Lyon, Trigg and Murray, it is getting more and more difficult to compete,” Newcomb said. “I am hopeful someday we can take that same progressive step into the future.”
Wommack said she believes the Marshall vote was unsuccessful primarily because it is the first time the issue has been brought to ballot here since national prohibition was repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.
Prohibition went into effect based on the Volstead Act in 1919 after passage of the 18th Amendment, which declared the production, sale and transport of intoxicating liquors illegal.
Lyon County’s vote last week was the third time the issue has been on a ballot since 1999.
Wommack also said over 10,000 registered voters did not vote in the Marshall wet/dry option last summer. She said her group will work harder to get out the vote next time the issue comes around. She said Marshall 1st remains and active organization and keeps abreast of issues which impact the sale of alcohol.
“It took Lyon County three times to get it,” Wommack said. “I think we took people by surprise here. We (Marshall 1st) are still active and we will be back to put this on the ballot again.”
Wommack says last summer’s referendum was educational.
“We learned a great deal last time,” she said. “There were 10,000 registered voters who did not vote in the election last time. We will work much harder to get them out to vote.
“We also feel the time between votes will allow the county to see just what success the others around us experience.”
Wet or dry?
- 38 Kentucky counties are dry
- 32 counties are wet
- 35 counties are moist, with a wet city within a dry county
- Limited 100: Alcohol by the drink in restaurants with at least 100 seats and 70 percent revenue derived from food sales
- Limited 50: Same, for restaurants with at least 50 seats
- Golf: Alcohol by the drink at golf courses
- Winery: Small farm wineries voted wet by precinct election
- Historic Site: Special licenses; 3 have been issued