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Losing millions in alcohol revenue
Hartselle may be missing out, report says

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Hartselle is losing millions of dollars in alcohol sales, a Texas-based marketing company said.

But city leaders can do nothing about it because Hartselle is one of the largest dry cities in the state.

And it’s unlikely that residents here will approve legalized alcohol sales, Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

Using the intersections of Alabama 36 and U.S. 31 and Interstate 65 and Alabama 36 as trade areas, Buxton said, Hartselle has the potential to collect $8.4 million in alcohol sales from homeowners within a 12-minute drive of the city limits.

By extending the trade area west to Alabama 157 in Lawrence County, south to Lacon and east to Brewer High School, potential alcohol sales increase to $18 million, the report shows.

Neither trade area includes Decatur, where alcohol sales have been legal since 1984.

“Astonished,” Tankersley said about the report. “Some of the figures are hard to fathom.”

In the 12-mile trade area, for example, the company estimates Hartselle’s sales potential for everything from clothing to automotive sales to be $375 million.

This figure is part of a marketing analysis plan Hartselle is paying Buxton $63,000 to prepare.

Tankersley said the next report will divide the city into 66 segments and make specific recommendations as to the kinds of businesses the city should recruit.

Slim chance to go wet

As for alcohol sales, the mayor said, the council is not trying to use the report to legalize alcohol.

“Based on the previous election, the likelihood of Hartselle going wet is not very good,” Tankersley said. “The citizens have said they like the community dry.”

According to the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, 41 of the 67 counties in the state are wet. Sixteen municipalities in dry counties, including Decatur and Athens, have legalized alcohol sales.

Twenty-one of the 26 dry counties, including Lawrence, Morgan and Limestone, are north of the state capital.

Main Street in Hartselle once had bars and saloons that generated a significant amount of revenue for city coffers.

But alcohol sales here have not been legal since prohibition. Decatur is the only municipality in Morgan County with legalized alcohol sales.

Past efforts

Historically, Hartselle voters have been against alcohol sales. When Decatur legalized alcohol sales in 1984, Hartselle rejected a countywide referendum 1,182 to 603.

In 1989, a group calling itself Concerned Citizens started a petition for alcohol sales, but stopped the petition almost one month after it started.

In 2002, a record number of voters cast ballots overwhelmingly against legalizing alcohol sales inside the city. About 72 percent of Hartselle’s 7,839 electors voted 3,419 to 2,025 against the referendum.

A group called Families for a Safe Hartselle raised nearly $17,000 for a campaign against legalized sales, while proponents of the 2002 referendum spent less than $2,000 on their campaign.

Almost six months after Giovanni Italian Grille opened on Railroad Street in late 2005, a petition drive to put another alcohol referendum before the voters failed. Alabama law requires the petitions to contain the signatures of 25 percent of the registered electors who voted in the last municipal election in Hartselle.

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