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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.

(Sources: Georgetown Residents Affirm Liquor Law Change; Georgetown Residents Vote to Change Liquor Laws; Georgetown Voters Approve Beer, Wine Initiative.)

Lindsey A. Zahn


Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Joe November 16, 2010, 1:17 PM

    Very nice update regarding alcohol licensing. Is this the Georgetown in the District of Columbia, or somewhere else?

  • Lindsey A. Zahn November 17, 2010, 9:46 AM

    Hi Joe:

    Yes, this entry is about the Georgetown in the District of Columbia.

  • Joe Wilson November 17, 2010, 1:42 PM

    Thanks for the quick reply! I am surprised that Georgetown would have separate regulations from DC. I always thought it was just a tony neighborhood in the District. Do you know whether they also have their own Alcohol Beverage Control Board? By the way, I love your blog and website. I practice law in San Francisco and have done some alcohol licensing work, and it is nice to have a resource like your website to keep updated on all that is going on. Keep up the good work!

  • Lindsey A. Zahn November 18, 2010, 9:48 AM

    Hi Joe:
    I am uncertain if Georgetown has its own Alcohol Beverage Control Board, but my guess is that these regulations are probably the repercussions of blue laws. I am not particularly familiar, however, with prior regulations of Georgetown. I will definitely look into it.
    Thank you for the comment about the blog! I am glad you enjoy it and I hope you will come back and visit often. I am also excited to hear you’re involved in the industry — that is great! I hope On Reserve remains a good resource and I will try my best to keep it as up-to-date as possible. If you ever have any ideas or anything you’d like to be posted, please do not hesitate to contact me!
    Best regards,

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