Georgetown’s Winery Initiative Passes
Last week, on November 2nd, Georgetown voters overwhelming approved the bill known as the Winery Initiative and removed alcohol restrictions that were previously characteristic of the town. Voters approved this initiative “with about 77.8 percent voting in favor of changing Georgetown’s liquor laws.” (See Georgetown Residents Affirm Liquor Law Change, asserting that “Georgetown voters cast 13,280 votes in favor of passing the proposition; 3,791 were opposed, according to unofficial Williamson County voting results.”) The law, which allows restaurants and wineries in Georgetown to sell wine and beer without applying for a full liquor license, will severely cut costs for these businesses. Prior to the passage of this law, Georgetown businesses (in dry areas) were required to obtain a full liquor license; the new law allows such businesses to obtain a less inclusive license that permits them to sell wine and beer without paying the fee for full liquor license. The full liquor license is estimated to cost about $6,000 per year whereas the cost of selling only beer and wine is about $500 per year.
Accordingly, “[t]he process of changing Georgetown’s liquor laws began last year with a movement started by citizens, including members of the Downtown Georgetown Association.” (See Georgetown Residents Vote to Change Liquor Laws.) “Bringing liquor laws to citizens for review required 4,700 registered voters’ signatures on a petition. Once the signatures were verified, the Williamson County commissioners approved putting the local option election on the Nov. 2 ballot July 20.” (See Georgetown Residents Affirm Liquor Law Change.) In doing so, businesses hope to bring more options and opportunities to Georgetown Square that still promote the area’s culture and history. Previously, wineries were not allowed to come to the area because of the legal restrictions imposed by the city. Presently, many wineries are seeking to move in to the Downtown Georgetown area.
However, there are some restrictions that are imposed by this new law. “The City of Georgetown’s development code prohibits more than one bar, tavern, pub, dance hall, or nightclub from operating within 750 feet of another. Because Landmark Tavern—a private club that serves alcoholic beverages—is already open on the second floor of 701 Main St., no other tavern can open on the Square.” (See Georgetown Residents Affirm Liquor Law Change.) Additionally, the Georgetown City Council must approve a permit to any bar, tavern, pub, dance hall, or nightclub in city limits and requires that such businesses be at least 300 feet from a church, public or private school, and public hospital.
In light of prior On Reserve entry (see The Wrath of Blue (Laws)) discussing blue laws and the effects thereof, it is interesting to see a city like Georgetown impose a new law that allows for less restrictive regulations concerning the sale of alcohol by hospitality businesses to consumers while still maintaining an overcast of “blue law” restrictions. This simply reaffirms the history of alcoholic beverage regulation in the United States, a more conservative outlook and regulations with respect to alcoholic beverages.