COVINGTON -- The Board of Commissioners informally agreed at a work session Monday night to let voters decide whether alcohol by the drink should be sold in the county.
Voters could be asked to decide three questions: If liquor by the drink should be sold Monday through Saturday; if it should be sold on Sunday; and if package sales of beer and wine should be allowed on Sunday. Commissioners have yet to decide whether all three questions will be on the ballot, or whether the referendum will take place in July or November.
"Licenses will only be issued in areas that are properly zoned. The board would need to discuss the areas where permits would be obtainable," said Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office. The board has previously discussed limiting sales to areas identified as development nodes.
Sales would be limited to restaurants and hotels with restaurants, and only establishments meeting certain requirements, such as having a full service kitchen and at least half or more of sales from food. Distance requirements will also be set for private residences, churches, libraries and schools.
Commissioner Mort Ewing has opposed alcohol by the drink each time the issue has been brought before the board.
"I'm aware the majority of the board wants to move forward with this and that's fine, and I also would predict when it goes on the ballot it will get an 80 percent yes vote," Ewing said. "For the board members who favor this, I would ask to take into consideration the potential impact on the county budget."
Ewing said alcohol by the drink "has not been a win-win proposition as it relates to cost versus expenses" for the city of Covington, referencing administrative costs related to licensing and code enforcement and additional police power.
"I would hope the board would consider those factors as you move forward with implementing this and I also hope that you would look at the distance required as it relates to churches, even in a development node," he said.
Asked to comment on whether sales have been beneficial to the city's budget, City Manager Steve Horton responded,"Obviously, if the city of Covington Annual Operating Budget did not include taxes and license fees that are associated with the sale of alcohol by the drink, the overall revenue budget for the city of Covington would be less than it is today. However, without doing some in-depth research on the matter I would not care to make any additional comments as to the benefits and/or negative aspects of alcohol sales by the drink on Covington's budget, local economy, or demand for services."
The board is expected to hold another work session to hash out details before the end of the year and hold public meetings on the matter in early 2012. If a referendum is held during the July 31 primary, a resolution would need to be adopted by April 3.