A local businessman has started a petition drive calling for a public referendum in the Smithville Municipal Election June 19 to allow the licensed sales of alcoholic beverages including liquor in city restaurants.
The petition, circulated by Randy Paris, seeks to "authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in the City of Smithville". Only 90 valid signatures are needed to get the referendum on the June 19 city election ballot.
The petition states "we, the registered voters of the City of Smithville, do hereby request the holding of a local option election to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in the City of Smithville as provided by law".
Paris, in a telephone interview with WJLE Wednesday, said this is a way to boost the local economy and bring in more tax revenue. "We're a tourist town. We have a ton of people who come from Nashville, Murfreesboro, Lebanon, and other places to use our lake and this is a way to capture some of this outside money. When I had the boat dealership (Smithville Marine), the majority of my business and the sales tax that I collected was from out of town like Nashville, Brentwood and Murfreesboro who use the lake. This is a great opportunity to generate some revenue. There's so much money being left on the table. It'll help the development of the town as a whole," said Paris.
"This would allow a restaurant to serve wine or beer with your meal," said Paris. That opens up the door for other businesses to locate in this town. The city can use that (tax) money for a lot of good things," he said.
While the move is certain to generate opposition, Paris said he expects to receive more than enough signatures on the petition to get the measure on the city ballot June 19. "There is a whole lot of support," he said.
Paris owns a laundry mat and car wash, and he rents out several commercial properties in the area. His wife also operates a local business.
Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections said that "State law allows individuals to submit a properly worded petition calling for such a referendum. In this case, the referendum is for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises within the Smithville City Limits."
Under the law, Stanley said such a petition must be presented to the election commission office no later than 45 days before the Smithville Municipal Election, which is set for June 19.
"Based on TCA 57-3-196(C), the petition must be signed by 10% or more of the registered voters voting for Governor in the last election in the city," Stanley said. "There were 891 registered Smithville voters who voted in the November, 2010 election, thus the petition will only require 90 valid signatures."
If the petition is returned by the deadline and includes the required number of signatures by registered voters in Smithville, the issue will be placed on the June 19 ballot.
TCA 57-3-101 (A) states that "alcoholic beverage means and includes alcohol, spirits, liquor, wine, high alcohol content beer, and every liquid containing alcohol, spirits, wine and high alcohol content beer and capable of being consumed by a human being, other than patent medicine or beer, as defined in 57-5-101 (b).
The City of Smithville has a beer board that issues permits to eligible applicants for the sale of beer within the city limits. But the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission would apparently have the sole authority over the issuance of liquor licenses for consumption on the premises.