Tyler seeing impact of '12 alcohol vote - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Tyler seeing impact of '12 alcohol vote

Beer and wine sales are now allowed in Tyler stores. (Source: KLTV staff) Beer and wine sales are now allowed in Tyler stores. (Source: KLTV staff)

It has been more than one year since the City of Tyler passed four propositions that allow the sale of beer and wine for home consumption and mixed drinks in city restaurants. The election happened in November 2012 and changes went into effect in January 2013. Many who supported the propositions claimed it would be economically positive for Tyler, bringing in millions in taxed alcohol sales that would have otherwise been outside the city. Those who opposed the propositions had concerns over how easily available alcohol sales would impact crime and morale across the city.

Though the votes proved overwhelming support for the alcohol sales, those concerns lingered.

We’ve taken a look at alcohol related crimes and economic impacts since those four propositions were passed after the election. Alcohol related crime has dropped and city sales tax revenue is up.

“I’m not being approached by winos and bums and prostitutes at the grocery store like everyone was saying. I don’t see an abundance of trash, you know. There’s not thousands of people getting carted off to jail. Everything’s fine,” said Nick Pencis, owner of Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Que in Tyler.

According to data from the Tyler Police Department alcohol-related crashes have gone down. In 2012, before the election, there were 141, then in 2013, the year after the election, there were 113. DUIs have also dropped. There were 369 in 2012, but in 2013 there were 247 DUIs in Tyler.

Tyler police said no policy changes have been implemented to cause any sort of difference, though numbers do fluctuate from year to year.

“Just getting people off the roads,” Tom Mullins with the City of Tyler, said. “Going down to Lake Palestine or Kilgore or wherever people drove - it’s safer.”

Mullins said it’s not just crime that has been positively affected, but the economy, too. The Texas Comptroller shows an increase in sales tax revenue. It took until the middle of 2013 for retailers to get their licenses and stock their shelves, so we looked at January 2012 versus January 2014. From January 2012, before the election, to January of this year, the City of Tyler took in 14 percent more in sales tax revenue for the month of January. Tyler’s sales tax has increased more than two million dollars between 2012 and 2014.

National chains are taking notice.

“Grocery chains would not have looked at Tyler for expansions or new facilities if beer and wine was not available,” Mullins explained.

He said the new law is part of the reason Walmart plans to open a fourth location in Tyler.

“Even conferences and conventions that didn’t want to come to a dry county because it was so much of a hassle to try to just set up a hospitality event,” he said money was lost there, too.

Same goes for Stanley’s. Pencis said business would have stayed the same despite the outcome of that election, but now, “we’re not just a barbecue joint we’re also now kind of a live music venue and a gathering place for parties, whether it’s a rehearsal dinner or just a meeting for a company.”

Before 2012 bringing people to Tyler to work was a tough sell.

“It was definitely in the minus column. They either waited or went somewhere else,” Pencis said.

Now, the president of the Tyler Economic Development Corporation,Tom Mullins, says Tyler’s unemployment rate is below the national average.

Though the economy is turning for the better, he said, more jobs have been created as a direct result of that election.

“You have more delivery jobs. You have more convenience store and grocery store jobs. You have more jobs just in the hospitality industry," said Mullins.

All of this happened after the election.

Several East Texas cities will hold alcohol elections this weekend. Elections to allow mixed beverage sales in restaurants are happening in Kilgore, Marshall, and Appleby.

Propositions for mixed beverage sales in restaurants and beer and wine sales will be up for vote in Gilmer, Canton, Grand Saline, Van, and Quitman. Those elections will happen Saturday.

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