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Posted: October 18, 2012 8:49 p.m.

The facts about alcohol by the drink vote

Restaurants can't sell alcohol in unincorporated Newton County, a fact that has irked many residents but been a proud point for those with strong moral convictions on the issue.

Residents have the opportunity to change that this election as they vote on whether to allow alcohol by the drink, the term for sales of individual drinks by restaurants.

It's been more than a decade since voters last cast ballots on the issue, but county commissioners voted this spring to put the issue back on the ballot.

There are actually three separate issues on the Nov. 6 ballot: alcohol by the drink, Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink and Sunday sales of packaged beer and wine. (To see the questions, check out our sample ballot on page 8A.)

What it will do?
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering the issue.

First, some people already think the county allows sales of alcohol by the drink, but that's not true. Some cities do within their limits, including Covington, Porterdale and Social Circle.

Second, even if voters approve alcohol by the drink in unincorporated portions of the county, the sale of alcohol will be severely limited.

The board of commissioners has already passed an ordinance that will go into effect if voters approve alcohol by the drink. The ordinance only allows alcohol by the drink sales in designated development areas. As of now, the only areas that are zoned that way are portions of the Almon Road corridor and Stanton Springs industrial park, though the Salem Road corridor will soon be designated a development area as well.

The alcohol ordinance further restricts location by not allowing alcohol to be sold within 300 feet of schools, churches, libraries, public housing and alcohol treatment centers, nor within 100 feet of a private residence.

Finally, the ordinance is written specifically to prevent bars from forming. Restaurants must make at least 50 percent or more of their profit from food sales, depending on their size.

Taken together, the ordinance will only allow pure restaurants to be located in very specific commercial corridors.

The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce has argued that alcohol by the drink is necessary to bring in national restaurant and hotel chains to the county's commercial areas. Opponents have argued some that increasing the availability of alcohol is simply not a good thing.

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