Advocates petition to get liquor sales on November ballot
By Ken Esten Cooke
Believe it or not, there is a place in the Hill Country where one still can’t legally buy a stiff drink. With the Hill Country dotted with wineries, breweries and distilleries, Kerr County’s Precinct 2 has never approved “Liquor by the Drink” and is limited to beer and wine sales only. It’s further proof of the state’s antiquated liquor laws, which are being revisited during this coronavirus pandemic.
Enter the Precinct 2 Prosperity Program, a collection of businesses and entities who want to level their part of the county and invite investment to their southeastern corner of Kerr. Current law prohibits production and sales and activists want to lower that economic barrier.
Organizers will try and gather 2,000-plus petition signatures through July 31 to get the issue on the November 3 General Election ballot. Then voters in the precinct will make the decision as to whether to join the rest of the Hill Country.
“We will benefit economically in this region from agriculture, increased tourism and economic diversity, creating local jobs,” said Sue Schulse, owner of Turtle Creek with husband Dan. Her company has a tasting room downtown and wants to include one on its vineyard and olive grove property located south of Kerrville.
Amazingly, the issue has been floated to voters four times previously and came close to passing, but failed each time. Advocates want to push through the issue and get the area south of Kerrville on an even competitive plain to recruit, retain and expand businesses that want to sell wine and liquor.
Turtle Creek Olives & Vines, the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce, the Comanche Trace housing community, and several other restaurants and businesses all started the initiative.
There is little doubt of the economic jolt the addition of wineries, distilleries and breweries have provided to the once-sleepy Hill Country. Those facilities have seen substantial investment, the hiring of many employees, and given a jolt to sales tax figures through their products. It’s why 1 of every 3 visitors to nearby Fredericksburg makes the trip, or at least has it on their itinerary. And one consultant said the Precinct 2 soil makes for better grape-growing conditions than in nearby Fredericksburg.