Scotch & Water

Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on Newstalk 600 KTBB, Friday, Feb. 22, 2008

Once again, alcohol will be on a ballot in Tyler. This time, as a result of a successful petition drive by those wishing to do away with the whole private club membership dance as a pre-requisite to having a drink with your dinner in a restaurant.

The good news about alcohol sales in Texas is that the decisions are made at the local level. Alcohol sales are precinct option in Texas. It’s government close to home driven by those closest to the results thereof. That’s a good thing.

For decades, the people living in Tyler have decided on numerous occasions to keep the county “dry”. Now if you’re reading this on line, you’ll see that I put the word “dry” in quotes because in truth, Smith County is anything but dry. There’s plenty of drinking going on in Tyler. All of the restaurants are, and here are some quotation marks again, “Private clubs with memberships available.” There’s no one going to Mercado tonight who wants a margarita that won’t get one.

Those who oppose alcohol sales do so for understandable reasons. Alcohol is not a benign product. Drill in to most traffic fatalities and you’ll find alcohol at the root. Domestic crime and violence, same thing. Consume too much alcohol and you become unfit to drive or be seen in public. You become a menace, a danger to yourself and others. And for many people, any alcohol is too much. Alcoholism has destroyed countless millions of families in our history and continues to do so to this day. If you don’t like alcohol I understand why.

Since this segment is sponsored by a wine maker and retailer and since I’m about to do a commercial on drinking wine, it’s obvious that I consume alcohol. I do. I like a nice glass of wine with my dinner. I treat myself to a scotch in the evening on weekends. If I host a social event, we serve alcohol. With respect to consuming alcohol, I know the rules and I abide by them.

So do most people.

But the ones who don’t cause huge problems and thus, many in our community have a desire to see that no alcohol is sold. If you’re in that group, I respect your position.

But here’s a memo to you folks. It ain’t working.

Smith County is awash in beer, wine and liquor. Countless thousands of gallons of gasoline are burned every month driving to Kilgore or Coffee City. There’s no chain restaurant in the market that doesn’t serve beer, wine and cocktails. The whole private club thing is a farce. The sale of alcohol is not being restricted. The same amount of alcohol is being consumed per capita here as anywhere else in Texas.

So why this ridiculous “private club” process? Why do we want to make it more difficult for Brinker International to open restaurants in our city? Why do we want to create more paperwork and cost for entrepreneurs who are willing to risk their own capital to give us another dining choice?

Let’s join the 21st century.

I know that many are afraid that opening up alcohol sales in restaurants is the first step toward package liquor sales in Tyler. You may be right. But prohibition didn’t work. People are going to buy alcohol. Hey it’s Friday. If you don’t believe me, today’s a good day to go park yourself near the bridge over Lake Palestine on Highway 155 and watch all of your friends make a liquor store run this afternoon.

Why do we want the sales tax revenue to leave the county if we’re not curtailing the behavior?

Liquor stores can become eyesores. But the Town of Addison, a suburb of Dallas, voted years ago to allow package sales because a large swath of north Dallas is dry. They saw a business opportunity but they saw the potential downside. So liquor sales take place within strict zoning guidelines. There are rules about storefront appearance and signage. The Town of Addison sat down and thought out a rational way to sell package liquor and they have prospered for having done so.

Tyler is a growing city. It is making us all more wealthy because it is attracting in-migration and investment that is causing property values to appreciate. It’s time for rational and realistic rules on the sale of alcohol. What we have now is a charade.

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