New Smith County Liquor Vote Brewing - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/13/04-Tyler

New Smith County Liquor Vote Brewing

The debate has been raging in East Texas for most of the last century. Should alcohol sales be legal?

Voters in Palestine have spoken.  The vote by a narrow margin this weekend will allow beer and wine sales in retailers throughout the city.

But in Smith County, a new battle is building regarding how wet this dry county will be.

Gus Ramirez, owner of Gilbert's El Charro Restaurants says the work just to offer alcohol to his customers is nearly not worth it.

"It's very difficult. If you screw up, you've got the TABC agents on you."

Folks have to submit their driver's license to sign up as a member and all the paperwork is all open to state alcohol auditors.

"It costs us a lot of money to keep up with all of this," Ramirez says.

It's been this way since the seventies, but now those restaurant owners want the law changed, so they won't have to make patrons fill out paperwork.

Tom Mullins, president of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce says businesses have complained about the rules.

"It's like operating a whole other company. They have to run two sets of books, maintain two sets of inventory," he says.

Mullins says over the years regulations might have caused business to go elsewhere.

"Anyone who wants to come here with a conference or convention knows that they have to go through an extra level of paperwork just to set up a hospitality suite," Mullins says.

But changing the rules won't be without opposition.

"My response would be whatever the difficulties they've had, I'd like for them to continue to have," says Dr. Jay Lockhart, pastor of West Erwin Church of Christ.  He says his heart won't be swayed.While folks who want to drink will, he says getting alcohol shouldn't be made easier.

"I've seen too many results from the consumption of alcohol. I've seen too many lives ruined. I've seen families torn apart."

The vast majority of wet-dry votes in Texas have passed in the last year. Those who want the laws for restaurants loosened need 35 percent of voters to sign their petition for an election next year.

Reported by Morgan Palmer. 

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