Alcohol sales have produced tax revenue

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

By Stephen Dawkins

What could have been a controversial decision seems to have out worked out well for everyone.

Jemison residents voted almost exactly one year ago to allow the sell of alcoholic beverages in the city. Since then, new businesses have opened, old businesses have made more money and, perhaps to the dismay of critics of the measure, cases of driving under the influence of alcohol have decreased.

The city’s vote was more than 2-to-1 in favor of allowing alcohol sales, but Jemison Mayor Eddie Reed said he and the city council were sympathetic to dissenters, knowing that such a step would be controversial.

“It was a difficult decision for the council because we’re right here in the Bible Belt,” Reed said. “Like everything else, we had people in Jemison that purchased alcohol, and they were taking their business somewhere else.”

Allowing residents to make purchases of alcoholic beverages in Jemison has increased the city’s sales tax revenue about $15,000 per month, Reed said. The city took in an average of about $55,000 monthly before going wet and now averages close to $70,000.

Though the vote was in January 2010, the first alcohol was sold in Jemison on March 16, at Jemison Exxon.

Store owner Chander Arora said at the time he spent about $1,000, and much time, obtaining a license to sell alcohol. Arora said on Wednesday the investment was a good one.

“It has added a lot of sales to the store,” Arora said of his business off Interstate 65 Exit 219. “We have a lot of walk in sales for beer.”

Arora said sales increased 30 percent those first few weeks because Jemison Exxon was the first store in town to sell alcohol. Even after more licenses were granted, though, store sales still remained 15-20 percent above the previous year.

B-Mart, off Highway 31 in the southern part of Jemison, can’t compare what its sales were like before alcohol because the store was opened because of the vote to go wet.

“That’s why we opened the store,” owner Heather Brantley said.

B-Mart offers products other than wine, beer and drink mix, but Brantley estimated alcohol sales account for about half of the store’s revenue.

Reed said law enforcement has played a significant role in the apparent success of alcohol sales and said DUI cases have decreased in the past year, presumably because residents no longer have to drive outside the city to purchase alcohol.

“It has been well policed,” Reed said. “It was a business decision. We’re hoping it will continue to attract new businesses.”