Commissioners say, ‘Let people decide’

The economic development concern that put a liquor-by-the-drink question on the Marion County election ballot Nov. 2 was first expressed a year ago at a meeting of the mayors of Marion County.

Mary Glenn, mayor of Burns, took the mayors’ concern to the Marion County Commission earlier this year, in a move described not as a promotion of liquor, but a way to keep money in the county, especially from travelers.

The three Marion County commissioners-Bob Hein, Leroy Wetta and Howard Collett-said they agreed with the mayors. They saw allowing liquor to be served in restaurants as an economic move rather than a liquor-consumption promotion.

But they also agreed at the time of Glenn’s presentation that such the issue should be decided by a vote of the people.

Commissioners had already turned down a request from Canada Bait & Tackle near Marion Reservoir to be allowed to sell 3.2 beer on Sundays. But they said that is an entirely separate issue. This vote would have nothing to do with Sunday beer sales, and it would not affect any current liquor-store regulations.

The ballot question, as provided by the Marion County Clerk’s Office, asks: “Shall sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink in Marion County be allowed in public places where at least 30 percent of the gross receipts are from sales of food for consumption on the premises and prohibited in all other public places?”

The vote will require a “yes” or “no” answer.

Glenn said she became concerned about only private clubs being able to serve alcoholic beverages with food when it became apparent to her that potential customers traveling the highway through Burns were being sent elsewhere.

Glenn said travelers going up U.S. Highway 77 to Kansas State University events could provide an economic boost to Burns.

She said she realized most travelers would only eat and not drink. But they wanted the type of nicer establishment that does sell alcohol.

Glenn said Marion County is surrounded by counties that do allow alcohol sales in restaurants: Harvey, Butler, McPherson and Chase. She saw development money going there instead of here not only from those who might come here, but from Marion County residents going to those counties.

“It’s time we become like those around us, time we join society,” she said.

Glenn said the other mayors shared her views, and were frustrated at watching the business depart Marion County.

“It was like everybody agreed that we lived in a corner of the world where we were doing nothing,” she said.

The mayors were unanimous in taking that concern to the county commissioners.

The commissioners said a yes vote by county residents doesn’t forbid a city from enacting ordinances that would prohibit liquor sales within city boundaries. But none of them expect to see any Marion County city depart from the decision of the vote.

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