Erath County alcohol proposition to be on November ballot

E-T staff report

An effort to gather more than 4,400 signatures to call an alcohol election in Erath County was deemed a success by a local group of business owners.

A petition with the signatures was submitted to the County Clerk's in June, and the Erath County Commissioners Court has ordered a Nov. 2, 2021, election for the proposition. 

Local business owners hold a media event on June 4 after turning in petitions to the Erath County Clerk's Office calling for the local option alcohol election.

According to information from Texas Petition Strategies, the proposition to be submitted to voters would create one set of rules throughout the county supporting alcohol sales in area establishments. A group of local business owners and community leaders also supports expansion of current sales to include fine wine and package stores.

The group is proposing a change in regulations to remove a private club requirement on restaurants, officials with Texas Petition Strategies said. 

Currently, in order to sell alcohol, restaurants are required to operate as a private club, which can become costly according to the Texas Restaurant Association. 

“According to the Texas Restaurant Association, it can cost between $3,000 to $20,000 a year to be a private club," said Court Cole, owner of Bull Nettle Bar & Grill.

State law required the group to gather 4,409 signatures of Erath County voters by June 4. The group submitted nearly 7,000 signatures with 4,802 being verified by the Erath County Clerk's office. Only residents of Erath County were eligible to sign the petition. 

“We are pleased with the response from the community," Cole added. "This is a clear indication our customers and community want to level the playing field for all businesses here in Erath County.”

Based on a 2008 study by Texas Economist Ray Perryman, Erath County could see a significant increase in sales, jobs and local tax revenue.

“Based on our population, studies show we could be gaining as much as $10 million a year in additional sales, nearly 100 new jobs and generate another $200,000 in local sales tax revenue," said Brady Pendleton, a local attorney and member of the Stephenville City Council. "Changing this law could be a great benefit to our community.”

The U.S. Census Bureau places Erath County’s population at 42,698. Based on the calculations of a 25,000-population entity, the county currently receives as much as $22.4 million in annual sales and more than $522,000 in local tax revenues because of being "partially wet".

However, changing the county’s dry status for spirits (package liquor sales) and removing the private club rules for on-premise establishments could mean a nearly 40% increase in alcohol-related tax revenue, officials said.

Texas Petition Strategies of Austin was hired to conduct the petition drive and election campaign. TPS has conducted more than 450 local option ballot propositions in more than 250 Texas communities.