Community Members Question What A Wet/Dry Vote Could Mean For Them

By: Jon Sonnheim Email
By: Jon Sonnheim Email

Will it bring in more money and business, or alcoholism?

That's the question citizens of one eastern Kentucky community are debating, as a wet-dry vote on alcohol sales looms in the coming months.

More than 300 residents in Whitesburg recently signed a petition asking for a special election to decide the alcohol issue.

Some have said it's an economic issue versus a moral issue.

Should alcohol be allowed to be sold in certain restaurants?

It's certainly an argument we've heard several times across cities in eastern Kentucky over the past several years and an issue that now lies with the people of Whitesburg.

For people like Josephine D'amato Richardson, the option of a glass of wine or a beer with a meal means more than just a pleasant dining experience.

“I think it would dramatically improve the quality of life for not only our citizens, but for people traveling through,” Richardson said.

Richardson, as co-owner of the courthouse cafe, and co-chair of the Letcher County Tourism Commission, sees alcohol sales as a way to not only enhance dining but attract new restaurants, new businesses, and new money.

“We lose that business every single weekend and in addition to losing it for the restaurants, we lose it for shopping,” Richardson said.

“We think that there will be additional restaurants and eateries come to town, and again, business generates business,” Mayor James Wiley Craft said.

It's that hope for growth and a revitalization of downtown that has some in the city excited.

It's also a way for city government to make extra money by taxing 30 to 50 cents per drink.

But not everyone agrees alcohol will have a positive impact on the town.

We spoke to on person who asked to remain anonymous who opposed alcohol sales, “To me, alcohol being in the town would just be another thing that could prevent them spending money on their families, on their children, and the needs they need to have met.”

Now the wet-dry vote is set for April 17th and if it passes, at least one businessman WYMT spoke with said he would strongly consider opening a new family-style restaurant in Whitesburg.

Meanwhile, members of one local church opposed to alcohol sales, say they are planning a meeting to discuss how to stop the vote from passing.

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