Liquor By The Drink Has Mixed Results

Sunday, November 19th 2006, 2:08 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Supporters of liquor by the drink legislation say it promotes economic development, but the guidelines are having mixed results in counties that have voted to allow alcoholic drinks to be sold in public establishments.

McClain and Murray counties officially went wet on November 7th. But liquor by the drink means little to Larrie Moyers, manager of Newcastle's Brush Creek Steakhouse. A regular churchgoer, Moyers is among those in McClain County who oppose liquor by the drink on religious grounds.

``I don't want a bunch of drunks in my restaurant,'' Larrie Moyers said. The new liquor laws went into effect Monday in McClain County but don't start in Murray County until December 1st.

Bryan County voters passed liquor by the drink legislation two years ago. Durant, the county seat, is in the midst of an economic boom, according to the executive director of the Durant Industrial Authority.

Durant's sales tax collections have increased more than 8 percent each year since approval of liquor by the drink, Tommy Kramer said. A Chili's restaurant has opened and three other restaurants have obtained liquor licenses in Durant since the ballot issue passed, Kramer said.

``Chili's would not have come without liquor by the drink, and sit down dining is a need in our community,'' he said.

It's been almost a year since Lincoln County residents approved the sale of liquor by the drink, but Don Neal, president of the Lincoln County Grape Growers Association, said changes have not been immediate.

Neal, who supported the issue, said he has high hopes for the future, even though only one business in the county has acquired a mixed-drink license since the measure passed, according to Oklahoma's Alcoholic Beverages Law Enforcement Commission,

``It's brought us into the 21st century,'' Neal said. ``It's a good thing now, but the potential is greater. It's just going to take some time.''

Moyers, however, doesn't believe the economic incentives in McClain County will be as great as others have said.

``I don't believe it will help the economy,'' Moyers said. ``The people who drink, drink somewhere now anyway, and there's a lot of good Christian people out there who don't drink. I don't see it being that big of a boost to the economy.''

At Bravo's Mexican Grill in Purcell, the thoughts on what liquor by the drink will do for businesses and the county are quite different.

Restaurant manager Sergio Diaz thinks being able to serve mixed drinks will have a positive economic effect.

Diaz said he frequently talks to people who travel to Norman to get a drink with their meal, and he thinks the business will gain a lot more local customers once they get a liquor license. The restaurant plans to apply for one.

Business owner Mark Rawlings knows liquor sales have helped his Bryan County business.

Rawlings, owner of Salita's Mexican restaurant in Durant, helped start the petition that called for that county's liquor vote. His restaurant now has a full bar, and business is up 20 percent. That means not only more money for him but also more sales tax dollars for the city, he said.

Thirteen businesses in the county now have mixed-beverage licenses, according to the ABLE commission.