It's been just over a week since Smithville residents and property rights voters decided through a referendum to make the city "wet" by allowing alcohol sales in retail package (liquor) stores. But legal liquor sales is really not new to DeKalb County. In recent years several dining establishments outside the city but in the county have been selling liquor by the drink, licensed by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, after being designated by the state as "Premiere Tourist Resort" properties.
Premier Resort status can be granted by the state to allow businesses in specific locations to obtain an "On Premises Consumption" or Liquor by the Drink license regardless of local restrictions.
Under certain conditions, businesses may qualify to apply for a liquor license with passage of an amendment to the "Premiere Tourist Resort Act" by the state legislature making them eligible. Once businesses have that authority from the state, they may seek a liquor license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. If approved, the license is renewable annually.
The DeKalb County Beer Board, which grants local beer permits, has no authority over the issuance of liquor licenses by the state.
DeKalb County businesses that currently sell liquor by the drink are the Inn at Evins Mill, the Blue Water Grille at Hurricane Marina, the Fish Lipz restaurant at Pates Ford Marina, Turtles Bar and Grill on the Sparta Highway, and the Wheelhouse Restaurant at Sligo Marina
William Cochran, owner of the Inn at Evins Mill, said his establishment first obtained a license to sell beer from the DeKalb County Beer board several years ago and he later decided to seek authority from the state to receive a liquor license. In an interview with WJLE Tuesday, Cochran said the decision to obtain a liquor license at the Inn at Evins Mill has proven to have been a good one for the business
"From my perspective it has worked out extremely well for all stakeholders. One of the stakeholders being the business. Obviously, it has helped the business generate a stream of revenue that it would not otherwise be able to generate and it's not an insignificant stream of revenue. It has also benefitted the business because it tangibly enhances the experience of our guests when they are able to enjoy a glass of wine at dinner when they were not able to before this. It's helped with the guest experience. It's helped with the bottom line. It's certainly helped with the guest experience in terms of them not having to bring their own wine with them which I think a lot of our guests appreciate. I think it provides a lovely, safe, and responsible environment for our guests to enjoy a glass of wine at dinner without having to get in their car and go somewhere. I think that's a particular nice aspect of it," said Cochran.
"Certainly it's able to generate a not insignificant amount of revenue for the county that would not otherwise have been generated over the past seven years. We just expanded our facility from twelve to twenty rooms so our business is about to head into a whole new period of growth and the ability to sell alcohol builds upon that," he said
"Probably ninety five to ninety seven percent of our revenues on an annual basis come from tourists, travelers, vacationers, or groups that are traveling to Evins Mill from outside the county whether it's to host an off-site meeting or whether it's to host a wedding or whether it's just a couple that's coming to celebrate an anniversary or a honeymoon. Certainly most of our business is from middle Tennessee, Davidson County, Williamson County, Sumner County, etc. That's not to say we don't appreciate the folks that patronize our dining room from Smithville, but it just doesn't happen to be a whole lot of our business right now," said Cochran.
While city voters narrowly approved alcohol sales in retail package stores in Smithville last week, they defeated a referendum to allow restaurants in the city to obtain a license to sell alcohol for on premises consumption ( liquor by the drink).