THE LIQUOR DEBACLE
Currently there are 4 “dry” counties in Florida. These counties include: Madison, Lafayette, Liberty and Washington. Sixty-three have decided to be “wet”. Our neighbors Hamilton and Jefferson have not only been “wet”, but also had gambling and card rooms for several years and it certainly has not been an economic boom for them. A petition drive failed in Washington County within the last two years, as it did here 3 years ago.
You have no doubt recently seen articles in the local newspaper regarding the Local Option Election for the purpose of legalizing liquor sales in Madison County to be held on August 28, 2012. Two questions will be on the ballot regarding legalizing liquor sales: first, shall the sale of intoxicating liquors, wine or beer be prohibited or permitted?; and second, if liquor sales are permitted, what method of sale shall be used?. There is wide discretion under the law as to the method of sale, but my understanding of the intent of the petitioners is for it to be as full blown as the law allows. If so, this would allow package stores, bars, lounges, and sales by the drink in a number of venues if the measure is voted in.
Let’s take a look at Florida Statute 561.20 which covers Beverage Law Administration. Liquor licenses are allocated based on population to counties which have voted to become “wet” on a ratio of 1 license per 7500 people. This would only give Madison County 2 licenses, but the statute further states that all “wet” counties will be permitted at least 3 licenses. These are referred to as quota licenses. Apparently Madison Yes has not read the entire Statute as they advertised in their facts in the 8/17/12 Enterprise Recorder we would only have two licenses.
To get one of these three quota licenses there will be a 45 day application period, after which a lottery type drawing from the applicant pool will determine who gets them. These will cost the regular license fee for the first year ($624 for drinking on premises facilities), plus the Hughes Act Fee of $10,750. Normally these go to the package stores, bars, and lounges.
Businesses which now have beer licenses will be allowed to upgrade their license to beer and wine. I personally believe this is will be the biggest change we will see due to the number of establishments that currently have beer licenses.
There are any number of scenarios under which additional special licenses may be secured for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises: hotels, motels or motor courts with at least 80 guest rooms; condominiums with at least 100 units, condominiums with at least 50 units in a county having home rule; restaurants with at least 2500 square feet of service area and can serve 150 persons full course meals at one time; caterers who generate 51% of revenue from food and non-alcoholic beverages; specialty centers with at least 50,000 square feet of leasable space and near a navigable body of water; bowling establishments with at least 12 lanes; county commissioners for county establishments; special airport license; public fair or exposition; civic center authority; sports arena authority; performing arts center; certain clubs, lodges, and fraternal or benevolent associations.
My point in listing all of these is to show that in Madison County we have very few establishments that qualify for the licensure applicant pool. There would be 0 hotels and motels, 1 restaurant,(and it is not Honey Lake as their restaurant license is for 74 seats), 1 country club, 2 lodges and 2 or 3 American Legion Posts that would qualify assuming they wanted a license. Only one of these would satisfy the quest to get a restaurant (assuming the owners want a license) that could serve after dinner drinks which is what the proponents of this issue say is their driving force.
Revenue to the county would be minimal from licenses. The county retail business license is only $30 per year, restaurant licenses are based on seating and range from $18.75 – $75 for existing effective licenses, and all other license revenues go to the state. Currently there are 20 licensed restaurants in Madison County. There would be City licenses if the business is located in a municipality. The county would receive 1 1/2% of the sales tax generated as a result of the sales. The 1/2% would go to the new hospital construction debt retirement fund and the 1% would go toward the EMS and infrastructure debt retirement. One percent of sales tax in Madison County currently produces $1,038,651.00 annually from taxable sales. We have no way of knowing what liquor sales would generate in addition to current revenues. Based on experiences nationwide for every $1 received in taxes from the sale of alcohol the cost to society is $3 to $5. To make it come even closer home, in a recent year alcohol cost you (each taxpayer) $479, and that ‘s if you didn’t buy any. We are already financially strapped as a county, state, and nation, so how could we afford this extra drain on our resources?
We can’t afford alcohol because of the cost to business-$4 billion in absenteeism and poor performance on the job.
We can’t afford alcohol because of it’s contribution to auto deaths-50 percent of the fatal accidents are alcohol related.
We can’t afford alcohol because of what it does to our health-alcoholism is surpassed only by cancer and heart disease as a health problem.
We can’t afford alcohol because alcohol is America’s number one drug problem-it is used and abused more than all other drugs combined.
We can’t afford alcohol because of what it does to our homes- in 90 percent of cases in domestic courts one or both partners are guilty of using large quantities of alcohol. Think of the molested, abused and neglected children in these homes.
We can’t afford alcohol because of what it does to the appearance of our community-litter (bottles, cans, cartons) on the streets and roads multiplies 3 to 5 times after alcoholic beverages are legalized.
We can’t afford alcohol because of its contribution to crime-up to 90 percent of the inmates in prison are drunk or drinking when committing the crime that sent them to prison. Alcohol lowers resistance and reduces the ability to make rational decisions.
We can’t afford alcohol because availability brings increased consumption-that brings more of the problems mentioned above.
We can’t afford alcohol because drunkenness places one’s soul in jeopardy-I Corinthians 6:10.
Alcohol sales offers nothing positive for Madison County, but gives the opportunity for many negatives!
Please join me in voting against liquor sales in Madison County on August 28th!