Citizens may 'vote' on alcohol issue

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Alex Ramirez had heard the debates over Sunday liquor sales in the city of Shepherdsville.

And, even as a new restaurant owner, he understood the concerns of the public and the councilmembers over allowing Sunday alcohol sales in the city.

But, with his new Cabo Cantina’s Steaks and More now open on Cedar Grove Road at Interstate 65, Ramirez now realizes that the inability to sell alcohol on Sunday dramatically affects his business.

But councilman Scott Ellis believes he might have a way to get the pulse of the community.

While acknowledging that the alcohol issue couldn’t be placed on the ballot, Ellis said there could be a simulated election ballot taken to allow all the residents to have their say.

And the council would agree to go along with the consensus.

“I’m trying to find a way all citizens have a voice,” said Ellis.

In doing research, Ellis said a fourth class city, such as Shepherdsville, could have a regular election machine in place to count votes. While the votes mean nothing legally, Ellis said it would give the councilmembers a sense on what the people are thinking.

The Sunday sales issue failed twice in the past year but Ellis said he is approached on a daily basis. Some are against the idea but many others are in favor, especially restaurant owners.

While establishments in Louisville and Elizabethtown may have Sunday sales, they don’t allow smoking. Ellis said that puts Shepherdsville in a unique position to have both.

The idea was discussed Monday evening but Ellis said he wanted to talk with each of the other councilmembers before moving forward.

If the council is not at an agreement to follow the results of the citizen ballot, Ellis said there is no point pursuing the issue.

City attorney Bill Wilson said the state alcohol laws have been revised so many times over the years, it is difficult to get a handle on the most current. He didn’t think there was a moratorium before the council could address the matter once again.

The issue was tackled last summer and fall in Shepherdsville.

The only difference was during the second discussion, the council allowed limited Sunday sales at a golf course. This would allow Heritage Hill Golf Course to serve alcohol during limited hours on Sundays.

No package liquor can be sold anywhere in Bullitt County on Sundays.

One of the major arguments in the past has been that some councilmembers felt the public should have an opportunity to vote on the matter.

Ellis said the simulated ballot would solve that concern.

For Ramirez, he has seen first-hand the affects of the Sunday ban.

“It’s a struggling business,” he said. “I didn’t believe Sunday was important but it is.”

In the restaurant business, he said Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the big days and local establishments lose out on that third day.

During Sundays, when many of the big events are held, such as Super Bowl, NASCAR, football and basketball, Ramirez said his regular customers are telling him that they are going elsewhere.

He was also concerned that the golf course had the license but others didn’t. While he has nothing against the golf course, he didn’t feel it was right to be able to promote the restaurant with Sunday sales as it puts others at a disadvantage.

Being at the July public hearing, Ramirez understands the viewpoint that alcohol didn’t need to be sold every day of the week.

However, he said he and his family attends church. He said selling alcohol doesn’t change that.

“It’s what you do every day that makes a person,” said Ramirez.

Having a full-time job as a firefighter in Jefferson County, Ramirez said he opened the restaurant as a way to bring something needed to the local community.

“I’m trying to stay in business,” he admitted. “I understand why bigger businesses do not come in now. I didn’t realize how much it plays an effect.”

Ellis said there was no timeframe to decide if the council would pursue the simulated ballot. However, he wanted to either move forward or drop the idea without dragging it on too long.