Alcohol sales

Keith Moore, of Savage Farms in Fallsburg, sells his wines at Market 474 in Grayson. With an initiative to make Carter a wet county, vintners and brewers could apply for licenses to sell their wares at events across the county, rather than being limited to the wet cities of Grayson and Olive Hill. (Photo by Jeremy D. Wells, Journal-Times)

Carter County is already what is called a moist county – an otherwise dry county with cities that have passed ballot initiatives to allow the sale of alcohol within city limits. But if a petition drive by the Carter County Tourism Board is successful, voters could see a ballot initiative in the next election to make the entire county wet.

"There are so many advantage to it," Tourism Board Chair Melissa Bays explained.

She said that in addition to more funds for the sheriff's department the move could also benefit "mom & pop" operations out in the county. Some of those convenience stores out in the county have lost sales as shoppers going into Grayson or Olive Hill for their alcohol do the rest of their shopping in town as well. While this is good for the municipalities who are drawing in more shoppers, it isn't as good for the businesses located outside city limits.

"It kind of puts them at a disadvantage," Bays said. "When we talked to people in the county, they want to sell."

Allowing alcohol sales in the county could also be a boon for both Grayson Lake and Carter Caves State Resort Park, Bays noted, explaining that our local parks are among the four parks in the state that currently cannot sell alcohol. She noted how, during a recent outing with some folks interested in investing in Carter County, the potential investors were shocked that they couldn't have a beer with their lunch at the golf course. Wine with dinner or a beer with lunch could help increase the money being spent at the parks as well as drawing events such as wine tastings to the park.

"We're not talking about having keggers," Bays said, but noted that being able to have a champagne toast at midnight on New Years, host an office Christmas party with an open or cash bar, or putting on a wine tasting event could benefit the parks during the off season.

It could also improve safety, she said, since the parks would be able to prohibit outside alcohol and better control consumption by cutting off those who are already inebriated, something they can't do when golfers or guests bring in their own alcohol.

"They could have more control," she said.

They need to gather at least 2,700 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, she said, though they have set a goal of 3,000. Then it will be up to the county's voters. To sign the petition you have to be a registered voter in Carter County.

"There are benefits to a lot of people (in making the county wet)," Bays said. "The tourism board is here for economic development, and this is just another piece of that pie."

She said that the Chamber of Commerce in Olive Hill has members circulating the petition, and that the group plans to talk to the Grayson Chamber about supporting the move as well. While Bays acknowledged that some Chamber members in the cities may not want the competition, the Tourism Board feels that the move would ultimately benefit everyone.

"What helps Grayson Lake and Carter Caves helps the cities," she said.

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