Alcohol on ballot for Flatwoods citizens

May 3—FLATWOODS — Alcoholic beverages may be around the corner for Flatwoods citizens. It's ultimately up to them.

Flatwoods residents will vote on a proposed ballot measure on May 21 that could give the green light for carry-out beer, wine and mixed beverages to be sold at stores in city limits. It would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in Flatwoods restaurants, too.

Flatwoods has a population of 7,243, according to the last United States Census Bureau survey in 2022. Mayor Buford Hurley said 25% of the prior general-election turnout was required to put the measure on the ballot — which was about 530 people.

"Coming from a guy who has never drank ... there is a benefit to it, but you also have a downside to it," Hurley said. "Right now the cities around us are selling these products; they still have the same problems, but they are getting the revenue benefit from it."

Confusion of where the tax money from alcohol goes is something Hurley said is an issue.

"It's strictly used for law enforcement purposes. It does benefit our law enforcement," which will benefit the community, he said. "They could buy those (drinks) locally and we could benefit off of it financially on the law enforcement side. ... Anything to offset their cost is a good thing."

If the measure passes, Flatwoods city council will regulate the sale of alcohol.

The passing of the proposed measure will allow restaurants to sell by the drink, convenience stores to sell beer packages and three liquor licenses for standalone liquor stores, Hurley said.

In Kentucky, liquor licenses are given to each city based on the population, he added.

Francisco Ortiz, one of the three brothers who own multiple food establishments in the tri-state area, was told 80% of registered voters were in favor of the possible switch. He is a co-owner of Taco Brothers in Flatwoods.

"Some of the guests are wanting a margarita or beer with their tacos. It's not necessarily going to be a bar scene," he said.

As the brothers have in the past, they are yet again paving a way for another city to allow alcohol to be sold, Ortiz said.

"We are the ones putting it on the ballot; we are the ones pursuing to get the alcohol in this particular location — not only in this location, but across the entire city of Flatwoods," he said.

An increase of revenue came to restaurants Casa Grande in South Point, Ohio, and El Colonial in Russell, owned by the three brothers, Ortiz said. He attributed that to alcohol sales.

"It actually does help our businesses," Ortiz said. "Community is one of our core values in our company. We love giving back to the community and creating a little bit more revenue will allow us to do that."

Ortiz expressed that the community should give the proposed ballot item of allowing alcoholic beverages into the Flatwoods city limits a chance to bring change.

"I want them to give us an opportunity. It cannot just be an improvement for the businesses, but across the whole entire town. It can definitely be beneficial," he said.

"We are surrounded by communities that already have it," Ortiz added.

Katie Madden, Super Quik store manager who has worked at company locations in Russell and Raceland, said when alcohol was given the OK, she saw first-hand the increase in sales.

"It did bring more money into the city for sure. I would assume it will do the same here," she said.

"Everyone around us is already doing it. We haven't heard anybody being negative about it. We do have people come in all the time asking if we sell alcohol, or if we are going to sell alcohol," Madden added.

Larry Craig, a registered Flatwoods voter, was dining in Pappy's Cookin' in Flatwoods and said businesses have always thrived without alcohol-infused drinks and heavily opposed the possible switch.

"We see that happen right here. This succeeds without alcohol," he said.

Russell has alcoholic beverages "close enough and there is not a need for it" in Flatwoods when you can step outside city limits, Craig said.

"I don't believe in it, I am a Christian" is a phrase heard from many voters in the area who oppose and will be voting no.

Cheryl Hamilton, a Flatwoods citizen, was one of many who agreed the possible switch goes against her religious beliefs.

"We don't need it. We have a carry-out and it's never busy. Go to Ashland. I don't care if they have a margarita with their food or not. It's just my belief, we do not need it," she said.

Cynthia Eskridge, a citizen of Flatwoods who moved to the area from Florida recently, is ineligible to vote in the primary election due to being a registered "independent." If she was eligible, she would vote yes.

"They are just going to go get it wherever so why don't we get the tax dollars? ... It's not going to change anything; people who want to drink are going to drink regardless," she said.

Young people are the concern for Larry B. LeMaster. He said he is a firm believer in alcohol bringing "nothing but trouble and will be voting no.

"Them going wild," he said with a laugh. "I am opposed to it, I am a Christian."

Doug Spillman, a retired U.S. Marshal, former state trooper and Vietnam veteran, has been a vocal opponent of the switch.

"If you take into consideration the overall impact of alcohol on society, it is bad. The more places you offer to drink where people eat, you are going to have more people leaving there drinking alcohol and driving," he said.

"They always bring up the revenue issue and bringing tourism in. I don't buy the argument. I am not saying it's not true, but only a few people are going to benefit from that money," Spillman added.

Donald R. LeMaster, a man of "zero tolerance" for alcohol, was another citizen who said he would be casting a thumbs-down to the ballot measure.

"I am Christian and I would vote against it," he said. "... My family grew up and had alcohol in it. I've seen what it does."

"Fights, arguments and one gets mad and leaves and the other one comes back," LeMaster said, explaining primary experiences he observed from the effect of alcohol.

Harriet Pridemore was at her home in a Flatwoods neighborhood. She couldn't imagine the city allowing alcohol and said she was worried what it would bring.

"We just think it tears the family up and causes death on the highway. We don't believe in it. We couldn't imagine living with it," she said.

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