Wet vs. Dry: Lubbock's Controversial Alcohol Debate - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/26/04

Wet vs. Dry: Lubbock's Controversial Alcohol Debate

If you live in Lubbock and want your liquor by the bottle, you know you have to drive outside the city limits to buy it. As a matter of fact, Lubbock is the largest city in Texas that doesn't allow packaged alcohol sales but that could be changing.

The reason package liquor sales aren't allowed in the city limits is simple; the people in Lubbock haven't voted for it. The last time it came up was the mid 1970's. Back then, Lubbock folks didn't want liquor sold inside the city. But as we're about to see, liquor sales are generating talk again, and the Mayor thinks it's just a matter of time before Lubbock takes up the issue once more.

"There's been more and more talk about this the last probably 12 months, particularly the last six months. I've had more calls, more e-mails in regard to this issue then I have since 1998 when I went on the council. So it wouldn't surprise me if sometime later in this year or in the next 18 months if there's not a petition drawn to call an election and see what happens," says Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal.

Mayor McDougal says he understands both sides when it comes to having off premise sales in the city.

We'll start with the money. Selling liquor inside Lubbock would boost city sales tax to the tune of about $860,000 a year, and that's just beer and wine. "Well you know that's a pretty big number the city is missing out on. Especially in the last year or so since we've had some financial difficulties in dealing with a shortfall in the city, all new revenues would be welcome," McDougal said.

But this issue is more than about money and convenience. If the alcohol issues comes to a vote, as the Mayor suspects, people in Lubbock will take sides. Here's what a few we found had to say about it.

"I'd vote for it."

"I think beer and wine would be ok."

"I don't think so."

"Everybody else has it, and it would bring in money."

"I'd vote yes."

"I'd vote no."

"There will be some that will argue that people that buy beer and wine are going to get it. Whether or not they have to drive 20 miles to get it or walk across the street, they are going to get it. So to some people we're keeping the streets safer from people drinking and driving," Mayor McDougal said.

The predicted wet/dry vote is also a consumer story. It's about dollar's and cents including the prices Lubbock consumer's pay. Which is a different story to our north, we drove about a hundred miles up the road to Amarillo where we found cheaper booze.

Driven by stiff competition, with package sales on every corner is what Amarillo Party Stop Owner Andy Keller says keeps their prices low.

"It makes it better for us and for the consumer to have multiple locations." Do you think the Lubbock people are getting shafted? That it's a monopoly down there? "I hate to be quoted as saying that but yea exactly. I think when you have no competition then you have prices that are too close together," said Andy Keller, a liquor store owner in Amarillo.

So we did a little test. We priced the top five spirits at Party Stop in Amarillo and compared it to the same size bottles at the strip.

In Amarillo a bottle of Jack Daniels Whisky cost $23.89. Here it cost $28.99.

Crown Royal $23.49 in Amarillo, the average price here was $27.99, but we found it as high as $29.99.

Jose Quervo Tequila cost $22.45 up there and $26.99 in Lubbock.

Smirnoff Vodka $19.99 vs $21.99.

And finally Bacardi Rum at $22.99 there and $23.99 here.

As for beer the prices were much closer, in Amarillo a 30 pack of Coors light cost $20.99 and in Lubbock it cost $21.98. So if you went out and bought one of each of these five bottles of liquor plus a 30 pack of beer, you'd spend an average of $18.13 more in Lubbock than in Amarillo.

So why is that? Well we talked to Docs owner Jimmy Dunlap, who is currently out of town an unable to interview, but he explained a number of reasons for the differences.

They could have different beer distributors, with different charges. Our insurance and taxes may be different and our facilities in Lubbock are better. But Dunlap adds, the Lubbock stores are very competitive and strive to serve and support this community well.

If the wet/dry issue makes it to the ballot box as the Mayor predicts, look for some heated exchanges on important social and religious issues, as well as pocket book benefits.

So here's a breakdown of what would need to happen for the Wet vs. Dry issue to go before the voters. Citizens have to ban together and sign a petition, if the petition qualifies by having 35% of the City's registered voters, which is about 50,000 people, then an election would be called by our County Commissioners. And then the citizens would have the chance to vote on it.

The last time an election was called was in 2001 for the City of New Deal and it failed 142 to 91. And one more note, about the issue that keeps resurfacing, in this weeks Lamesa paper, the Back Page shows signatures of all the people against selling alcohol in that town. It says "We the undersigned, respectfully request that the city council and economic development corporation take the appropriate stance against the proposed alcohol election."

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