Moist vote goes to Dry Ridge voters

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By Bryan Marshall

Dry Ridge residents will be choosing more than their pick for the next U.S. president or local office on election day.

Voters will once again decide if they want their city to go moist.

J.B. Barnes filed a signed petition on Aug. 14 to get the vote on the ballot that, if passed, would make alcohol available by the drink at restaurants and dining facilities with a seating capacity of at least 100 people and which derive at least 70 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of food.

“We need some better restaurants and that won’t happen until Dry Ridge goes moist,” Barnes previously said. “I would say 95 percent of the people we approached signed the petition. There was no real negative feedback. The main and only reason for this petition is for the restaurants. This would be exactly like Williamstown. I hope it passes.”

Previous petitions have been filed, with the last one being rejected by voters in 2005.

In the January 2005 vote, only 304 voters were cast — 159 against and 145 in favor of alcohol sales.

According to Kentucky law, three years had to pass before a vote on alcohol sales could be put back on the ballot in Dry Ridge.

Dry Ridge Mayor Clay Crupper said he is staying neutral on the issue.

“I believe in letting the people say,” he said. “If they do, they do. If they don’t, they don’t.”

“I hear talk both ways,” Crupper said about whether he thinks the city will go moist. “I’ve heard some people who are for it and some who are against it.”

Regardless of his stance, Crupper admitted it could possibly be beneficial if the voters choose to allow alcohol sales.

“I’ve had a couple calls about it, chain-type restaurants wanting to know about it,” he said. “They just wanted to know if it was going to be on the ballot.”

In order to get on the ballot, the petition was required to have signatures from at least 25 percent of Dr Ridge voters in the last general election, said Grant County Clerk Leatha Conrad.

“There was plenty of signatures,” she said about the 97 residents who signed the petition.

Once the petition was certified, Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link ordered that the local option election be conducted Nov. 4.

Only residents living in the city limits of Dry Ridge can vote on the issue.

Five precincts — 4,5,13,21 and 23 — will have the local option vote on its ballot.

There has been some opposition to the idea that alcohol could be served in local restaurants.

“I think that some people who are probably in favor of it are either misinformed or misled,” said Rev. Joe Kitchens of the Dry Ridge Baptist Church. “One of the things I hear a lot is that with the sale of alcohol the economy will grow and without the sale of alcohol an economy can’t grow. If you come south from Florence all the way north to Georgetown, that 40-mile stretch, and look at Walton, Williamstown, Corinth, and Dry Ridge has really been outgrowing all of them. There is more hotels and restaurants in Dry Ridge than at Walton and that’s wet, or Williamstown, which has liquor, or Corinth. The argument that an economy can’t grow without liquor is false. The argument that an economy will grow with liquor is also false.”

Kitchens said the ultimate goal of the people pushing for this vote is to have a wet Grant County.

“If we have a wet Grant County, then we’re going to have bars,” he said. “We’re going to have liquor stores. I don’t think people want that next to their home or next to their churches or having their kids pass it two or three times a day on the way to school.”

Kitchens, along with David Tucker, Bobby Barnes, Greg Nimmo and Conrad Hefner, also submitted a letter to the editor to the Grant County News opposing to alcohol sales.

“If liquor is the cure all for financial woes and stalled growth, then where are the home owners asking for a bar beside their home?” the letter states. “Where are the land speculators promising to improve roads, community services and create family friendly bars? Where are the studies to show that alcohol will improve the workforce of Dry Ridge? Where are the school officials promising with liquor sales that new schools will be built? The sad truth is, while some individuals may benefit from the alcohol sales, families will suffer because of it.”

Corinth and Williamstown voters approved alcohol sales by the drink in 2004.

While he did not know what to expect at first, Williamstown Police Chief Bobby Webb said the availability of alcohol has not increased crime in the city.

“It’s not caused our DUI rate to go up at all,” he said. “We’ve not had any calls as far as fights or any type of disturbance at either restaurant in town. I believe it’s all in how you manage your business. I think Ed (Clemons of Edwardo’s Pizza) and the guy who runs El Jalisco do a good job.”

Clemons, owner of Edwardo’s Pizza, said he expected his business to be impacted financially more than it has since Williamstown went moist.

“There has not been a substantial impact,” he said. “But, we haven’t really marketed beer that much. We like to have more of a family atmosphere. We’re not really after the bar crowd.”

As for the likleihood that there will be enough votes cast for Dry Ridge to join Williamstown as moist cities, Crupper said he thinks the local option has a chance to pass.

“It was close last time,” he said. “There’s been a lot of new people who’ve moved in.”