Elizabethton voters to decide on allowing liquor stores in city

John Thompson • Sep 6, 2012 at 10:16 PM

ELIZABETHTON — It appears voters in the city of Elizabethton will be asked during the Nov. 6 city election to decide whether liquor stores will be permitted in the city.

A petition drive was headed by businessman Billy Chappell. “A petition requesting to hold a local option election to authorize retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages as provided by law” was turned into the Carter County Election Commission this week.

Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said the names on the petition were checked to make sure each signer was a registered voter in the city and the examination of the petition ceased when 354 valid signatures were counted. That was the minimum number required by state law. To get a petition on the ballot it must be signed by 10 percent of all voters who cast a vote in the 2010 governor’s election. That was 3,544 voters, which meant the petition needed 354 names. Chappell had set a goal to obtain 500 signatures. Harris said there were more signatures turned in, but the petition had already met the minimum requirements.

The election commission will certify the petition Monday at 9 a.m. during a meeting in the Conference Room of the Carter County Courthouse.

“This is an initiative to broaden the tax base for the citizens of Elizabethton,” Chappell said Thursday. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax dollars for the city is being lost because the citizens of Elizabethton and Carter County must drive to Johnson City to purchase wine or liquor.”

Chappell said he was interested in eventually owning a package store, but he said “its those tax dollars we are losing that is most important. I am not an advocate of irresponsible drinking. I just want to keep those tax dollars in Elizabethton.”

City Manager Fred Edens and Finance Director Jerome Kitchens said Thursday they did not have a any official documentation of how much additional revenue would come to the city if package stores were permitted.

In talking to an unofficial source, Edens said it appeared each liquor store could mean an additional $60,000 a year to the city. There would probably be two stores, so the estimated amount of new revenue would be about $120,000 a year.

If the voters decide to pass the referendum Edens said “I would like to invite everyone to come to Elizabethton and purchase wine and beer, just don’t drink and drive.”

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