Editorial: County-wide alcohol sales would be fair, good for economy

Published 11:12 am Saturday, February 15, 2020


The Advocate-Messenger

We support an effort currently underway from Boyle County businesses to put a wet vote on this year’s general election ballot.

Email newsletter signup

If supporters can collect 2,621 signatures on their petition by Aug. 9, they can make it possible for voters to consider this question on Nov. 3: “Are you in favor of the sale of alcohol beverages in Boyle County?”

A favorable response from voters would end the city-county divide currently in place, which creates a two-tier system for business. Currently, if a business sits inside the city limits of Danville, Junction City or Perryville, it has the opportunity to sell alcoholic beverages; if a business sits outside a city limits in an unincorporated area, it’s prohibited from those same sales by law. In other words, people in the cities have rights that people in the county don’t.

While it may be legal for our government to discriminate like that against rural businesses, we think it’s clearly unfair. If we want to make local government more fair, signing the petition is the first step.

But it’s not just a matter of fairness; it’s also a question of what’s best for the local economy. Boyle County struggles — as does every local government everywhere in the country at this point — to attract big employers. By some metrics, you can argue we do better than most for a region with our population, but the simple fact is growth is getting harder and harder to come by. Regardless of why that’s the case, there is one area where Boyle County has seen strong growth in recent years: distilling.

With the addition of Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, distilling has been cemented as a major economic driver for Boyle County — as well as its surrounding neighbors, who provide much of its workforce for years if not decades to come.

As long as unincorporated Boyle County remains dry, we are placing a cap on how much economic growth we can realize from the so-called “bourbon boom.” New distilleries and businesses that provide support services to distilleries will no doubt wish to build near a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. More restaurants and bourbon-tourism businesses will also want to be in Boyle County. But right now, the available land for all of these potential economic development opportunities is severely restricted, because they can only build within city limits, where alcohol sales are legal.

The economic development possibilities from making all of Boyle wet are impressive from a jobs and quality of life perspective; they’re also big from a tax perspective.

Our elected officials are always lamenting the lack of revenue options available to them. When they need more money to keep providing services or tackle major capital projects, all they can really do is raise taxes — and they have multiple times in recent years, including payroll tax increases by the county this year and by Danville in 2017. Voting for county-wide alcohol sales is one way Boyle County’s own residents can choose a different path forward. Taxes on alcohol sales can provide a minor boost to government’s bottom line, but far more importantly, the economic development growth we already mentioned will broaden the tax base, leading to more businesses paying net profits taxes and more workers paying payroll taxes.

Even with the required number of signatures, however, Judge-Executive Howard Hunt would still get to choose whether or not the question gets added to November’s ballot. We hope if wet forces are successful in getting their signatures, Hunt will allow the question, for the same reason we think anyone still opposed to county-wide alcohol sales should welcome a vote on the issue.

We live in a county and a country where great emphasis is placed on the people having a voice in their own governance. If there are substantial numbers of people who want to vote on alcohol sales, they should be given the chance to do so.

There may be even more people who don’t want alcohol sales despite the potential benefits and issue of fairness. If that’s the case, then they can make their voices heard at the voting booth by answering “no” to the question.

What should not happen is that a substantial percentage of people, even perhaps a majority, are blocked from even the chance at having a voice in their own government by a politically powerful minority that doesn’t agree with them. That’s not democracy; that’s tyranny.

If you would like to sign the petition, you can do so at either Hub Coffee House in Danville, at Third and Main streets and on Ponder Court. Or you can download the petition from developdanville.com/level-the-playing-field-in-boyle-county, print it out, sign it and bring or mail it to one of the following locations:

  • Convention & Visitors Bureau office, Grayson Tavern, Convention & Visitors Bureau office, Grayson Tavern, Constitution Square, 105 East Walnut Street, Danville, KY 40422;
  • Main Street Perryville office, Johnson-Brinton House, Merchants Row, 216 South Buell Street, Perryville, KY 40468; or
  • The Farmhouse Restaurant, 6560 Alum Springs Road, Danville, KY 40422.