Friday, September 08, 2017

TOP STORY >> Councils set election date

Leader staff writer

“I like steak, lobster and I’m from Texas, but I don’t drink,” said Jacksonville Alderman Jim Bolden. “As a reverend I preacher against drinking every Sunday, but as an alderman I have to look at the totality of the issue, and the city needs the revenue.”

Bolden was speaking about an ordinance the council setting a Nov. 14 election to allow “alcohol by the drink.”

It passed unanimously.

Sherwood also unanimously passed a similar ordinance 90 minutes earlier.

Dr. John Price who is heading the committee working for the passage of the new liquor law told the council, “This is a historical date. Tonight you are dealing with a 60-year bill that has had such a negative effect on Jacksonville, and the upcoming election can rectify it.”

Price went on to say it was now the committee’s job to go out and inform and educate the voters.

Realtor Daniel Gray, who serves as board president of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School told the council, “This bill, this election is about restaurants. It’s very narrow in scope. It is not about bars, liquor stores or convenience stores.”

State Rep. Bob Johnson, one of the legislators who helped allow the vote, told the council he didn’t want Jacksonville to be the forgotten city between Sherwood and Cabot. “We’ve got to get rid of barriers like this.”

The ordinance passed by both cities set Tuesday, Nov. 14 as the election date to decide the “question of authorization of alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption within the designated and identified territories outlined therein.”

That designated area – the defunct the Gray Township – includes about 90 percent of Jacksonville and 50 percent of Sherwood, which are dry because of votes in 1954 and 1956.

Gray made it clear that his family is not related to the Gray Township family.

LaConda Watson, another school board member and director of the Boys and Girls Club call the need for “alcohol by the drink” and economic growth need. “It’s about our quality of life and improving the city. It would bring in jobs, which would bring in more tax money, which would give us a more opportunities to improve education.”

Karen Abramson, one of the owners of Double R Florist, said, “It means more jobs and revenue. Let’s keep it all here.”

In Jacksonville, the dry area encompasses some of the most otherwise desirable land restaurant chains are looking at, according to the mayor, and is roughly bordered by Maddox Road to the north, the county line to the east, the Bayou Meto to the west and Wooten Road to the south.

By going wet, restaurants would be able to serve alcohol without having to go through the rigors of being a private club as early as this fall.