NEW ALBANY – New Albany voters will decide Jan. 12 whether to legalize alcohol sales in the city.
The election date was set Tuesday night on a 4-0 vote by the Board of Aldermen. Ward 2′s Johnny Anderson abstained but gave no reason for the decision.
The date allows for the required 30 days’ notice and publication of an announcement each week before the election.
The matter, which was handled in a matter of minutes with little discussion, was on the board’s agenda because representatives of Union County United for Progress submitted a petition last week calling for an election.
Union County election commissioners certified the petition, saying that it was signed by at least 20 percent of the registered voters, as required by state law. For New Albany, 20 percent represents 1,022 voters.
At issue will be the sale of beer and light wine inside the city limits. Light wine has less than 5 percent alcohol content by weight, and falls into the category sometimes called “wine coolers.”
If more than 50 percent of the voters want the city to come out from under the statewide dry law, aldermen will have somewhat more latitude in regulating beer sales than they would for liquor and wine.
Those beverages are regulated by the Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission.
State law makes some stipulations such as prohibiting sale of beer between midnight and 7 a.m. and forbidding sale of beer at school or athletic events, but most regulation is left up to the local government.
While Tupelo allows sale of cold beer in stores, for instance, Oxford does not
Whether to legalize sale of liquor and wine in the county was on the Nov. 4 general election ballot last year – the first time in 32 years liquor had come to a vote here.
Union Countians voted to keep the county dry by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. The “wet” vote carried only two of the 20 precincts but appeared to be stronger in the city limits than the county.
A beer and light wine petition was circulated then by the same group, Union Countians United for Progress, but was not presented to the city.
Liquor had to be voted on countywide, even thought it could only be sold in the city, had the measure passed.
Before that, alcohol was last on a local ballot in 1977. The move to legalize beer was defeated by a roughly two-to-one margin.
If the measure fails on Jan. 12, another petition for beer and light wine cannot be presented for five more years.
By the same token, if sale of beer is made legal, a petition to call for a vote to make it illegal cannot be submitted for five years. The minimum time for a liquor petition is two years.
Lynn West/New Albany News-Exchange