The Richmond Register

Local News

September 8, 2013

Wet/dry petition circulating in Berea

RICHMOND — Berea resident Jim Lucas approached the city council during its Tuesday meeting to announce he had mailed petitions to gauge public opinion for a citywide vote on allowing alcohol sales within the city.

Lucas said he wrote a column which appeared in the Berea Citizen the week before and had mailed petition cards to every registered voter in the city that morning.

“Once we get all the petition cards back, we’re going to send them to the county clerk requesting that a local option election on the wet/dry issue be conducted here in Berea,” Lucas said.

In April 2012, referendum voters in East Berea, the precinct that includes Boone Tavern Hotel, approved 147-57 a measure that would allow historic hotels with restaurants that seat 50 or more to serve drinks.

However, the sale of alcohol at Boone Tavern would have to be approved by the trustees of Berea College, which owns the business, and they have taken no action on the issue.

In late July 2007, referendum voters across Berea defeated 1,539 to 1,125 a measure that would have allowed drink sales in any restaurant that seats 100 or more patrons and derives 70 percent or more of its income from the sale of food.

Only in the East Berea precinct, where voters four years later approved drink sales in historic hotel/restaurants, did they favor them in 2007. The margin was 12 votes.

Lucas said he and other supporters of a local-option election support a similar idea, letting alcohol be served in restaurants but not allowing standalone bars to open.

“We feel this is strictly an economic progress, development-type issue,” he said.

He also said he has conducted independent surveys and found that many of the people who voted “no” in 2007 have changed their minds, and they would vote in favor if another referendum were called.

According to Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger, the process for calling local-option elections is outlined in KRS 242.020. The first part of the process involves gathering enough signatures on a petition seeking a referendum. The number must be equal to one quarter of the votes cast in the area’s most recent general election.

After a petition is filed, the clerk’s office audits it to determine if enough valid signatures have been submitted and other legal requirements are met.

If the petition is certified, it is presented to the judge/executive who, working with the county elections board, sets a referendum date.

Lucas said that filling out and mailing back the petition cards does not count one way or the other as a vote on the issue, it simply shows support for calling a referendum.

A copy of KRS 242.020 outlining the process for having a local option election can be found at the Kentucky legislature webpage, lrc.ky.gov.

Barger said he encourages anyone interested in collecting signatures for a wet-dry referendum to consult a lawyer to ensure they follow all legal steps in the process.

Seth Littrell can be reached at slittrell@richmondregister.com or 624-6623.

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