I'm not much of a liquor drinker. Never have been. But I understand those who like to have a cocktail at the end of the day or enjoy a drink before their meal at a nice restaurant. I also understand the people who are against all kinds of alcohol and do not want it in their community. It can come with its share of problems for people who can't have their drink in moderation. But I also understand and know for a fact that if a man wants to have a drink, he will have a drink whether the community in which he lives likes it or not. So you may be asking yourself right about now, "Where is he going with this?"
The local paper here in Fitzgerald reported yesterday that we the citizens of Ben Hill County will have the opportunity to vote on a liquor by the drink referendum in November. This will be the third or fourth time that we have tried to get this law passed. It has been defeated every time. You may say, "well a lot of small communities in the heart of the bible belt still do not allow alcohol in their county". This is where the "backasswards" part comes in. Ben Hill County is not a dry county. We have a liquor store on every corner. It is considered just fine if you wish to bring your own bottle of liquor into a bar and serve yourself drinks all night. You just CANNOT purchase liquor by the drink. In other words, you can get a licence to sell hundreds of gallons of liquor at you liquor store, but you can't get a licence to sell a man one drink at your restaurant. Backasswards!
Being a banker, I am trying to see the economic side of things. If we pass this law, it will increase tax revenues and hopefully provide Fitzgerald with a decent restaurant. Our country club might still be open today if we were able to make revenue on the sell of liquor. Businesses looking to locate to south Georgia may just find us to be more attractive because of our willingness to accept changes for the good in our economic culture. To me it is a no brainer that we need to vote for this law.
Being a baptist, I'm going to be asked by people to see the moral side of this argument. I have to admit that I just don't see the problem with it. We already have liquor in Ben Hill County! People already drink liquor in Ben Hill County! People already purchase liquor in Ben Hill County! What's the difference and what does it matter? Currently a bottle of liquor in Ben Hill County is purchased and the taxes are collected one time. That same bottle purchased by a restaurant in Ben Hill County can be taxed every time a drink is poured from that bottle. That could be 20 times!
The people who are against liquor by the drink argue that it will put more drunk drivers on the road or more drunk citizens on our streets. Let me remind you that beer and wine is currently served everyday by local establishments. Doesn't seem to be a problem. Also, under current laws a citizen of Ben Hill County can bring his own bottle of liquor to a bar and serve himself. Now wouldn't you want to have a bar tender telling a customer that he can no longer serve him because he has had too much to drink rather than that same customer serving himself past his limit. A friend of mine put it this way. "If I bring a bottle into the bar, I am going to finish that bottle before I go home. It's an ego thing. If I had to pay for my drinks one at a time, I would definitely not drink as much for the simple fact that it would cost more and I would not be tempted to finish my bottle to prove my manhood to myself." Fairly well put.
I had the privilege to live in Statesboro, Georgia for a spell. Bulloch County was and still is a dry county. You can not purchase a bottle of liquor in Bulloch County. All of the college kids have to head for the county line on game day to get their bourbon. Due to the efforts of some smart economic minded people, Bulloch County passed a liquor by the drink law in 1996. Statesboro took off! I can't describe how fast restaurants went up in Statesboro. It was already a growing community due to the success of the college, but it really started growing in 1996 and Statesboro has never looked back.
Tift County did the same thing a few years back. They now have some very nice restaurants. Guess where people from Fitzgerald go to eat on a Saturday night. I have never been to Tifton Georgia to eat when I have not run into someone from Fitzgerald.
It's time to move forward and embrace the economic opportunity that is before us. You are never going to stop people from drinking cocktails. We might as well make some extra money off of the ones who do.