BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
Residents living in unincorporated areas of Williamson County such as Grassland, Leiper’s Fork or College Grove will be able to vote on a referendum in November that would potentially allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks at licensed establishments, such as restaurants.
Currently, unincorporated areas of Williamson County do not allow for the sale or consumption of alcoholic drinks at businesses of any kind. These areas are also not allowed to sell alcoholic drinks in grocery stores.
Williamson County Commissioner Barbara Sturgeon, the original sponsor of the resolution that placed the referendum on the November ballot, said the main motivation for the proposal would be to provide more equal economic opportunities to businesses in unincorporated communities.
“My main motivation in passing this referendum is to provide equal economic opportunity to businesses [and] eating establishments, whether they’re in city limits or outside city limits,” Sturgeon said. “It hopefully will give us better character.”
Sturgeon explained how many businesses in unincorporated areas had shut down, attributing it in large part to the lack of ability to sell alcoholic drinks.
Grassland Foodland, a grocery store that had opened in 2015, permanently closed its doors in January of this year. The owner, Tony Collier, had previously tried to change state laws as to allow for the sale of wine in businesses in unincorporated areas.
Sturgeon said likely due to the lack of foot traffic from Grassland Foodland, a nearby drug store also closed its doors, and a close by restaurant, Daily Dish, reduced its service from a sit-in restaurant to a catering-only establishment.
“It has an economic impact,” Sturgeon said. “I can’t do anything to bring Foodland back, but I wanted to make it so that it was more business friendly to any potential new eating establishments or grocery stores that wanted to setup in unincorporated county.”
In addition to the economic benefits that would come with attracting more businesses, Sturgeon also mentioned the benefit residents in unincorporated areas would see.
“What I don’t want, is people to think we’re just promoting people to drink more alcohol,” Sturgeon said. “The fact is, it’s already approved in Williamson County, it’s just only the businesses within cities that are allowed to sell it. If I lived in Grassland, wouldn’t it be better if I could just drive a couple of minutes and have dinner [and a drink], or is it better that I drive all the way to Cool Springs and then drive all the way home?”
If passed, this referendum would only allow for the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in businesses such as restaurants. According to Williamson County attorney Robert Cook, this referendum would have to pass before laws governing the sale of closed alcoholic drinks at grocery stores, such as wine, could change.
This referendum will be available to vote on during the November 6 federal, state and municipal elections.