Opposing liquor petition proceeds

Illustration by Erin Jackel/The News

Ed Marlowe
Staff writer

Illustration by Erin Jackel/The News

Despite Grow Murray submitting its petition for signature verification, the responding Keep It Out of Murray effort continues to seek support.

Martin Severns, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church and elected spokesperson of Keep It Out of Murray, said while the vote seems inevitable, a petition against liquor is still being cycled should the signature count for Grow Murray’s efforts come up short.

“If theirs is certified and it goes to ballot, then we’ve got a game on,” Severns said. “It’s no longer a rush for signatures, but the game is on and we make a push for the ‘no’ vote while they make a push for the ‘yes’ vote.”

If the Grow Murray petition fails, Keep It Out of Murray can acquire the same necessary number of signatures to submit their petition and be approved by the County Clerk’s Office and County-Judge Executive. Voters would then choose “yes” if in favor of leaving the current liquor law as is, or “no” in favor of removing liquor from the city altogether.

“Our petition is no different than theirs – it’s bringing a cause to the voters and letting the voters decide,” Severns said.

Severns said it is not the intent of the group to remove jobs in the community, but merely to keep things as they are now with a 70:30 food-to-alcohol ratio and remove the possibility of total alcohol distribution within the city limits.

Current city ordinance states any establishment with seating for 100-plus customers can obtain a liquor license provided they can produce no less than 70 percent food sales and no more than 30 percent liquor sales per fiscal year.

“We’re not saying ‘Well you can’t drink, you shouldn’t drink,’” Severns said. “We’re saying we don’t want packaged liquor stores in Murray. We don’t want just the bars in Murray.”

Severns and Keep It Out of Murray believe the readiness and availability of alcohol in the city will amplify problems already visible in the county by increasing the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents, frequency of domestic violence issues and balloon alcoholism to intolerable levels.

“If you want to have a glass of wine with your dinner or drink a beer with your pizza, that’s your business,” he said. “But when the person gets on the road intoxicated, then that becomes my business because they put me and my family at risk.”

Severns said he has had numerous local law enforcement officials picking up Keep It Out of Murray petitions, citing they have all they can handle now with the way liquor laws are currently upheld.

“If everybody could drink and be responsible and it didn’t affect families and it didn’t affect children, then that would be one thing,” Severns said. “I just think that availability adds to the problem and convenience adds to the problem.”

One of the biggest platforms for Grow Murray’s case, Severns said, is the increased revenue across the board for Calloway County tourism and the creation of jobs commonly associated with the arrival of packaged-liquor stores.

However, Severns and Keep It Out constituents believe there are better alternatives to increase revenue and jobs for the county.

“If you’re going to add 100 jobs by bringing in 10 packaged stores, why not bring in a business that’s really going to be an up-sale to the entire community?” he said. “If you’re really concerned with adding revenue to the city, why not push the city sticker? At least the city sticker adds to the city budget, unlike alcohol sales tax which adds nothing to the city budget.”

Severns said it would be unjust for students and other short-time residents to not have a say, especially if forced to buy a city sticker, but said he remains concerned with temporary residents creating permanent policy.

“We understand that students have a voice, and they should,” he said. “They need to know how to use that voice and use it responsibly. Hopefully they know all sides of the issue.”

For the proper safety and social well-being of the community, Severns said he believes personal sacrifices must be made and strict regulations, similar to speed limits, should be enforced for alcohol related problems.

As it stands, Severns said he thinks 70/30 food-to-liquor is enough of a regulation to keep things from getting out of hand.

“At some point, you just say ‘For the greater good of everybody, we’ll leave it alone,” he said. “We just feel like there are a lot more positives to (alcohol) not being here than there are for it to be here.”

Severns said alcohol can be used responsibly, but he and Keep It Out want to keep alcohol expansion where it is so as to limit the possibility of poor decisions being made that could affect others in a harmful way.

“Is this about prosperity or personal preference?” Severns said. “And is it worth the price to find out?”

Said Severns: “What you do with your own life and in your own home is your own business, but when it begins to affect others, then everybody has the right to make a statement. What makes their position right and our position wrong?”

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Grow Murray submits petition

Officials for Grow Murray submitted petitions for a packaged liquor vote last Friday afternoon for review by the County Clerk’s Office.

Ray Coursey, county clerk, said it could take some time for all of the petitions to be counted and signees verified as registered voters within the city.

If the required number of 650 signatures is reached, the petition will be submitted to County-Judge Executive Larry Elkins for approval and be moved to a vote for packaged liquor sales no less than 60 days but no more than 90 days after the petition is ratified.

According to Grow Murray’s petition, a vote of “yes” means the voter is in favor of packaged liquor coming to Murray, and a vote of “no” means a voter wishes for the laws to remain the same.