Early next year Williamsburg voters will likely have a chance once again to decide if they want to allow alcohol sales at restaurants.
"A number of people in Williamsburg have gotten together in hopes of once again putting the local wet/dry option referendum on the ballot. I believe petitions are now being circulated in hopes of bringing it up for a special election vote sometime after the first of next year," Williamsburg lawyer Paul Croley said Tuesday morning.
"If Williamsburg does pass the local option, I believe we will have good restaurants in Williamsburg. It is not an alcohol vote. It is a vote for restaurants, and a vote for prosperity for our community."
The petition would allow alcohol sales at restaurants, which seat 100 people and derive at least 70 percent of their income from food sales.
It is the same referendum that Corbin voters approved in 2003 by a nearly 300-vote margin, and one that Williamsburg voters defeated in May 2006 by a vote of 790 – 577.
"It is the exact same thing that Corbin passed years ago, which has brought a number of restaurants to the area," Croley said. "Corbin has seen the benefit of increased business and tax revenue.
"There are a number of people, who are concerned that unless we move on this now, any opportunities that we would have for restaurants in Williamsburg will be gone."
Croley said organizers feel the chances of getting the ballot measure approved are good this time around.
"The first time this election was conducted, it was sort of an untested idea in the area. Corbin had recently passed their referendum, however, it didn’t have any restaurants at the time," Croley said.
"I believe that was a real hindrance to us. The people, who were opposed to it, all said that even though Corbin had passed a referendum they would not be able to get restaurants in the area. I believe that idea has been proven wrong."
Croley said he believes that now is the time to place such a measure on the ballot.
A petition is underway in Corbin that would allow packaged alcohol sales there and expanded alcohol sales at restaurants.
Croley said that it is his understanding there is an alcohol petition circulating in Barbourville too.
"Just about every city in the Tri-County area is circulating a petition right now," Croley said. "Unless Williamsburg acts on this now, I believe they are going to fall behind the times, and we are going to see all these other communities prosper.
"All the tax dollars that would have been going towards bettering our community are going to go to cities like Corbin and Barbourville and London."
In order to place the matter on the ballot, petitioners will have to gather signatures equal to at least 25 percent of the number of people, who voted in the last General Election in Williamsburg.
During last Tuesday’s election, 1,069 people went to the six precincts comprising Williamsburg. Out of those six, three precincts are split city/county precincts.
A petition with at least 268 valid signatures from city voters should be enough to place the measure on the ballot. In 2006, organizers gathered at least 608 valid signatures on petitions.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said Tuesday that he was aware of the petition, and of petitions circulating in surrounding communities.
"It is 2011. The citizens of Williamsburg have a right to choose whether they want to see a moist vote here, or do they not," Harrison said. "They deserve the same choices of other surrounding areas. Let’s see what happens when they put it on the ballot, and see what the citizens think."
Harrison said that at this point, he’s not taking a position on the referendum.
"From the office standpoint of it, I need to look at the economic impact that something like that will have," he said. "Will there be an impact? Will there not be an impact? I would like to look at it from the police standpoint. There are a lot of things that I will check into."
Pat Marple, who served as Chairperson of the Citizens Against the Sale of Alcohol in 2006, said he isn’t surprised that a petition is being circulated.
"My hope and prayer is that alcohol sales will be voted down again by the citizens of the city of Williamsburg," he said.
Marple said that he plans to oppose the measure again, and thinks there will be organized opposition once again to it.
"It’s our desire that the citizens of Williamsburg get all the facts about alcohol sales and what the proceeds from alcohol can and cannot do," he added.
Prior to 2006, the last alcohol vote in Williamsburg took place in 1976 when the dry forces trumped the wet forces by a vote of 1,315 to 180.