Dallas, University Park elect to go wet

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by RUDOLPH BUSH and LORI STAHL

The Dallas Morning News

Posted on November 3, 2010 at 12:05 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 3 at 10:35 AM

DALLAS — Voters favored opening more of Dallas to beer and wine sales, with the passage of a referendum that largely eliminates dry areas that for generations have limited or prohibited alcohol sales in wide swaths of the city.

Voters also approved the elimination of paperwork to join a private club before customers can purchase mixed beverages at restaurants in dry areas.

In University Park, voters ushered in the same two changes, despite formal opposition that included the city's mayor and the president of Southern Methodist University.

For Dallas, Tuesday's victory "means keeping more of the tax dollars in Dallas that were going to the suburbs. ... It means more convenience for the customer," said Gary Huddleston, a Kroger executive and chairman of the Keep the Dollars in Dallas campaign.

Now dry areas like Oak Cliff and parts of North Dallas could see grocery stores, gas stations and others begin to stock beer and wine by the end of the year. The rules on hard liquor sales remain unchanged.

Many residents viewed the dry laws as annoying vestiges of a bygone era, but they proved resilient to earlier efforts to overturn them. A group made up largely of grocery chains, restaurateurs and real estate investors backed the referendum.

Measure backers and city officials predict millions in tax dollars for the city. Opponents argue that the city won't see any extra money and that the measures will lead to increased crime and degraded neighborhoods.

Lawyer Andy Siegel, who led the opposition to the Dallas referendum, promised to file a suit to get the results of the beer and wine referendum overturned.

"The pro-wet folks simply failed to get enough qualified voter signatures on petitions to lawfully put this on the ballot," Siegel wrote in an e-mail. Backers of the propositions said they had plenty of signatures.

University Park

In University Park, a group of merchants backed a pair of similar measures. They said they were prompted in part by the realization that Dallas voters might ease restrictions in nearby "dry" areas. The merchants said University Park could lose money to neighboring areas.

"Our opponents' fear-mongering backfired as a strategy," said Marc Hall, owner of several restaurants in Snider Plaza. "They underestimated the common sense of the citizens of University Park."

The measures inspired opposition from Mayor Dick Davis and former mayor Roy C. Coffee, who warned that more alcohol sales could erode the city's unique character. SMU President Gerald Turner, who initially did not weigh in on the matter, later joined Davis and Coffee.

"The people have spoken and we will move forward," Davis said.

Dallas park measures

Voters denied two propositions that would have cleared the way for the Dallas City Council to sell two city parks, the 257-acre Elgin B. Robertson Park near Garland and Rowlett and a 25-acre piece of Joey Georgusis Park near Interstate 30 and Cockrell Hill Road.

What's next for Dallas after wet vote?

  • On Nov. 10, the Dallas City Council will canvass the election results and the propositions will take effect. The club card requirement at restaurants will be eliminated, and retailers can apply for beer and wine sale permits. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission expects about 2,000 permit applications.
     
  • In early to late December, the first wave of permits should be approved, and retail stores in previously dry areas can begin to stock beer and wine.

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