Corbin voters say 'yes' to expanded alcohol sales
Corbin has gone from moist to wet.
In Tuesday’s special election, voters narrowly approved a measure to allow package alcohol sales within the city limits by a combined total of 887-789 — just 98 votes separating the two sides.
The contentious referendum was no surprise to organizers who proposed the ballot initiative in December. Barbourville voted down a similar proposal last week. Anti-alcohol forces, emboldened by the victory, had hoped to parlay that success in Corbin.
Kurt Kraus, Chairman of Corbin Citizens for Economic Progress, the group behind the effort to bring expanded liquor sales to Corbin, said after Tuesday’s vote he felt the result was a “progressive move” for the city that could be used as a “springboard” for future economic progress.
“This isn’t about me or anybody else,” Kraus said. “This is about the taxes this is going to bring in and the money for our city and the truth about what this will do for us ... We just stuck by our guns and told the truth and let people make their own minds up.”
Not everyone was celebratory.
“We are disappointed,” said Chad Fugitt, Pastor at Central Baptist Church and chairman of Concerned Citizens for Corbin, a group created to defeat the proposal. “We had hoped the community would vote the proposal down. At the same time, our heart for this community has not changed. We loved this community before this vote and through this process and we are going to continue to love this community,” he said.
Fugitt said these are the issues that invoke strong opinions on both sides, but everyone he has spoken with on both sides has remained respectful and he is confident any rifts will quickly heal.
Concerned Citizens for Corbin provided a well organized opposition to expanded liquor sales, printing and distributing over 500 yard signs and canvassing neighborhoods roughly a week before the vote in an effort to win support.
The efforts paid some dividends, even though they fell short.
In 2003, Corbin voters approved a the limited sale of alcohol by the drink, only in qualifying restaurants. That measure won by a more comfortable 212-vote margin with less organized and galvanized resistance. This time around, the gap significantly narrowed.
Kraus said he feels that some of the opposition to package sales may have actually encouraged supporters of the idea to go to the polls.
“I think some of the no group’s tactics galvanized people to vote for this. People are tired of losing their rights in life,” Kraus said. “Why is it against the law to buy alcohol in this city when it is a totally legal product? I think people are tired of that. I think what they did caused a lot of people to get out and vote for it.”
Despite the rain, officials said turnout at the nine polling places in Whitley and Knox counties was brisk, considering the alcohol question was the only race on the ballot.
The measure allows Corbin to issue three licenses to sell package liquor of any type.
An unlimited number of licenses may be issued to grocery stores, convenient stores and the like for the sale of beer.
In addition, the current restrictions on the sale of alcohol at restaurants, which requires 70 percent of gross receipts to come from the sale of food, will drop to 50 percent if the city approves an economic emergency ordinance.
The measure passed by 66 votes in Whitley County where 1,382 votes were cast and 32 votes in Knox County where 294 votes were cast.
Three precincts voted against the measure, South Ward and Mastertown in Whitley County and E105 in Knox County, which is made up of residents in Cobblestone Estates.
Whitley County Clerk Kay Schwartz reported one minor issue dealing with a campaign sign too close to the polling place at Corbin Middle School.
Schwartz said Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell and Corbin Police Officer James Miller responded to the complaint.
“They measured the distance and found that the sign was 355 feet from the polling place,” Schwartz said noting that is permissible under Kentucky Law, which prohibits campaigning and campaign signs within 300 feet of a polling place.
Corbin City Commissioner Ed Tye said the next step in the process is for an ordinance to be drawn up and approved by the commission. Tye said the commissioners have 60 days to do so.
According to Kentucky law, there cannot be another vote on alcohol sales in Corbin for at least three years.
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