By Ed Brock
Wine may begin to flow in restaurants in the city limits of Jonesboro, if the people give liquor-by-the-drink sales their blessing.
The Jonesboro City Council voted unanimously Monday to consider a resolution that would call for a allowing sales of liquor-by-the-drink, Jonesboro Mayor Pro Temps Clifford "Rip" Sewell said.
The vote came in response to a letter and petition signed by more than 50 residents requesting the referendum.
"I want to give the citizens of Jonesboro a voice," said Luther Maddox, one of the referendum's supporters. "We'll never get more decent establishments in the city without allowing them to have a pouring license."
The movement for the referendum began with retired Jonesboro city clerk and lifetime resident Katherine Smith. She attended several public meetings about the city's Livable Centers Initiative, a program sponsored and funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission that would involve downtown revitalization programs. She realized that, as a private citizen, she would have to be the one to take the initiative since the city council and Mayor Joy Day have to remain objective.
"I want everyone to know that I would never be in favor of anything that I thought would be detrimental to the city or any of its citizens," Smith said. "Liquor-by-the-drink has no attraction to me personally, but I would like to see more nice restaurants in the city and it will not happen until this is possible."
Allowing restaurants to serve liquor by the drink would stimulate growth downtown and be a boost to the economy, Smith said.
"I think a majority of the citizens would probably go along with (the liquor sales,)" said Maddox, a former member of the Jonesboro City Council. "It would be very well policed."
Sewell also said that the city would tightly regulate the sales, probably requiring a 70 to 30 or 75 to 25 ratio of food to alcohol sales.
As a former police officer, Sewell said, he's seen what happens when single drink liquor sales "get out of hand," but in the end the decision should be taken to the people.
"We shouldn't dictate to the people," Sewell said. "As long as it's controlled I think it will benefit the restaurants."
The possibility that the city might allow liquor-by-the-drink sales doesn't count for much with restaurateur Gail Glancy.
"This is a family oriented restaurant and I don't think it would benefit my business," said Glancy, who along with husband Bill owns Butch's Restaurant on Ga. Highway 54.
While liquor sales wouldn't benefit her business, Glancy said neither would the possibility of more restaurants that do sell alcohol pose a threat to her business. There are already several restaurants on the immediate outskirts of Jonesboro that sell liquor and Glancy said her customer base is different from theirs.
The resolution should be ready for the council in a week or two, Sewell said. If the council votes to hold the referendum it would be during a regular election, probably the July 2 primaries at the earliest, Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said.