Jonesboro voters approve liquor by the drink

By Greg Gelpi and Bob Paslay

People in Jonesboro could be enjoying a beer or cocktail at their favorite restaurant as early as September after a vote on Tuesday cleared the way.

Voters approved the referendum to allow restaurants to serve liquor by the drink by a vote of 128 to 58.

Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said it will probably take about two months to do everything to give the green light to the sales.

"The council would have to adopt an ordinance for the issuance of such licenses. That adoption would occur probably Aug 9 or Sept. 13. We could begin licensing the next day after the approval," Walker said.

The license fee has not been set, but the city manager said it would fall in line with neighboring cities.

"We've had inquiries from a couple of restaurants in town and we have talked to restaurants outside the community looking to open new locations," Walker said.

The current city restaurants are "looking to add this to their menus and an opportunity to do something extra to their businesses," Walker said.

Currently there are some vacant buildings downtown and some vacant space in shopping centers along with some vacant land which could accommodate a new restaurant, Walker said.

Gerald Echols voted in favor of allowing liquor-by-the-drink because of the revenue it would bring into the city.

"Certainly it will create revenue with the restaurants we have," Echols said. "If more come in that's just a bonus."

By just before 6 p.m. about 201 city residents had come to the Jonesboro Fire Station to cast their votes, poll watcher James Massengale said.

"The turn out's been pretty fair," Massengale said.

One of those current restaurants looking to add the alcoholic beverages is My Sister's Place.

Owner Dallas Matthews said, "A glass of wine or beer would enhance dinner. I think it would bring more dining revenue to Jonesboro."

With restaurants on the outskirts of the city selling alcohol by the drink, the proposed ordinance could attract some of their business into the city, she said.

"It's a compliment to dinner and it raises sales," Matthews said

Jonesboro Main Street Manager Kathryn Lookofsky said the passage of the referendum could boost the economy along the stretch of offices and law firms lining Main Street by bringing in more restaurants.

"That is one of the first questions they ask," Lookofsky said. "That is one big factor in our recruiting."

Katherine Smith, retired Jonesboro city clerk and lifetime resident of the city, initiated the petition sparking the referendum.

"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 previously. "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."

She decided to pursue the referendum after a meeting on the city's Livable Centers Initiative, a program sponsored and funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission that would involve downtown revitalization programs.

Allowing restaurants to serve liquor by the drink would stimulate growth downtown and be a boost to the economy, Smith said.

(Staff writer Ed Brock contributed to this story).