At Thursday morning’s city council meeting, City of Graham officials announced that Graham’s dry status may prohibit them from allowing retail alcohol sales, even if voters approve the proposition on the November ballot.
After consultation with the city’s attorney, Kerwin Stephens, officials stated that the city cannot issue permits for the retail sale of alcohol within city limits regardless of what happens in November’s election to legalize beer and wine sales in Young County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, which encompasses all of Graham and the southeastern portion of Young County.
According to Mayor Jack Graham, The YCJP 1 election will not supersede the dry designation obtained by the city in 2012, when citizens voted 1,420 to 1,734 not to legalize the sale of alcohol in the city.
“If we allowed the larger jurisdiction to impose the new law, it would disenfranchise the citizens of Graham who voted against being wet,” Graham said. “It’s not a choice by the city; it’s following the law. But due to the circumstances of how they formed their petition and the jurisdiction that they are using for the vote, we cannot, as a city, declare ourselves wet. We would open ourselves up to lawsuits from the citizens of Graham.”
Shortly after the meeting, Graham Wet — It’s Time, the local organization that petitioned to force the vote on November’s ballot, issued a statement saying the city is just plain wrong.
“The bottom line is that when the voters of Young Justice Precinct 1 vote to allow the legal sale of beer and wine only, no hard liquor like the 2012 vote, the effect will be that all of JP 1 will be legal for the sale of beer and wine, including those retailers in the city of limits of the City of Graham,” the statement says.
According to Texas Election Code section 501.151, there are two types public option alcohol elections that can be held, prohibitory elections and legalization elections. According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s Annual Report of Non-Financial Data for fiscal year 2013, Graham’s November 2012 alcohol election was for legalization, not prohibition.
According to the Texas Secretary of the State website Q and A on liquor law elections, an unsuccessful legalization election has no effect on the wet or dry status of a city.
“A city or justice precinct which has adopted no status of its own regarding the legalization of alcoholic beverages takes on the status of its surrounding territory,” the site says.
John Hatch operates Texas Petition Strategies, a company that has consulted in 277 local option petitions in 160 different jurisdictions across the state. His company was hired to operate the petition locally by GWIT. According to Hatch, Graham established its dry status when Young County voted to prohibit alcohol in 1937. The status of Graham is really open and not dry, he said.
According to the 1937 TABC Local Option Elections Annual Report, in Young County “Beer was voted out (443-1319) in a county wide election November 6.” The 1938 report shows a county-wide election to legalize the sale of beverages with 14 percent alcohol failed 1,206 to 1,752, and the 1939 report shows that a vote to legalize beer failed 663 to 1,364.
It’s already been proven that the vote of a smaller jurisdiction inside of the county can trump the 1937 county-wide vote.
The City of Newcastle voted in 1991 to allow the sale of all alcoholic spirits within its city limits, superseding the 1937 vote for that jurisdiction, Hatch said. If YCJP Precinct 1 votes to allow the sale of beer and wine, that vote will also trump the 1937 county-wide dry vote for all of the YCJP Precinct 1 jurisdiction, including Graham.
Read the entire story in the weekend edition of the Graham Leader.