Union Co. voters divided on legalizing liquor

Published 1:35 pm Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voters in Union County will decide next Tuesday whether to legalize the sale of liquor and wine in the dry county.

The issue has been a hot topic heading into the election, with signs dotting lawns and business fronts promoting or opposing the issue.

Bob Portis, a New Albany resident who is a frequent volunteer in prison ministries, said alcohol has affected many families. He said making sales legal would put the county on a “slippery slope.”

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Booker Farr, who said he and his wife got a letter from a Baptist minister reprimanding them for signing the petition calling for the vote, said alcohol has always in the community and the question to be answered Tuesday is whether it’s going to be legal or illegal.

Union County supervisors scheduled the vote after more than 1,700 voter signatures were validated on petitions calling for such an election.

If a simple majority of voters approve, possession of wine and liquor will be legalized throughout the county. The Nov. 4 referendum does not include beer and light wine, which will remain illegal throughout Union County.

Under state law, however, wine and liquor can be sold only within the municipalities of New Albany, Myrtle and Sherman. Sherman, which occupies parts of Union, Pontotoc and Lee counties, already has a liquor store in its Lee County portion.

If legalized, retailers could be selling alcohol before year’s end.

Kathy Waterbury, spokeswoman for the Mississippi State Tax Commission, which includes Alcohol Beverage Control, said the average application time is four to six weeks. She said the process could be slowed if there are several simultaneous applications.

“If we have a new county to go in, it may take a little longer,” she said.