City residents and property rights voters are expected to decide in November on whether to allow liquor stores as well as liquor by the drink in restaurants inside the City of Smithville.
Local businessman Randy Paris has submitted to the local election commission more than the required number of signatures on two separate petitions calling for the referendums. The election commission will vote in June on putting the referendums with the November State General Election ballot.
Paris circulated petitions, to "Authorize consumption of Alcohol on the premises in the City of Smithville" and to "Authorize retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages in the City of Smithville" during the November election. He had to get ninety three valid signatures on each petition to force a public vote. According to Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, Paris turned in petitions bearing the signatures of 121 persons for alcoholic beverages in retail package stores and 125 names for consumption of alcohol on the premises.
Voters will have the option of voting "for" or "against" either referendum or both in November.
Paris successfully organized two liquor referendum petition drives two years ago but both were defeated at the polls.
In a previous interview with WJLE, Paris said liquor sales is a way to boost the local economy and bring in more tax revenue. "The decision really shouldn't be about whether you drink or not or whether you approve of it or not. It should be a business decision that will help our city economically. We have a huge tourism trade and this is a way of generating revenue for our city from the amount of tourism we have as well as our local people who are spending money in Putnam County, Rutherford County, Jackson County, and all the surrounding areas. The money would stay in our county and our city to help us," he said.
"I don't think it's necessarily going to bring great revenue into our city. I never have known when liquor has been the answer to the revenue problems of a city, county, state, or anyone. It brings too much bad stuff with it. That's the problem with it," said Don Davidson, minister of the Real Life Community Church of Smithville in a recent interview with WJLE.
"Anyone who is wanting liquor can get it anywhere they want to. Many people shop all the time out of town and across our county lines to buy this or that and to go out to dinner. They have access to all the liquor they could ever want already. Making it more available in Smithville would be for the convenience of a few rather than the majority," said Davidson.
"Liquor by the drink certainly would be devastating because the problem of people who drink and get drunk is they don't know when they are drunk. They can't tell when they have had too much. I think liquor by the drink is going to put more people on the road who will have gotten drunk and that will put more people at risk," he said.
Smithville voters, by a vote of 402 to 333 in June 2012, said "No" to the liquor by the drink referendum, which would have given eligible city restaurants the opportunity to apply for a license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission to serve wine and other mixed alcoholic beverages to its patrons.
Five months later in November 2012, Smithville voters rejected liquor in a separate referendum, voting 684 to 558 against a ballot question that sought to allow retail package stores, under certain conditions, to sell alcoholic beverages within the city limits of Smithville.
By law, a full two years has to lapse from the last vote before another liquor referendum can be held, making November 2014 the earliest that a liquor vote could be put before the voters. State law also requires public referendums to be held during elections where there is no primary. The only election this year without a primary is the Tennessee General Election in November.