MIDLOTHIAN — A grassroots group of county residents with a single goal in mind not only surpassed the required minimum, but they have positioned a portion of Ellis County to offer businesses the same alcohol sales opportunities as those within the city limits.
In an effort that began right around the rush of the holiday season, a group led by the Economic Growth Committee (ECG) and Texas Petition Strategies of Austin (TPSA) sought out approximately 5,000 signatures to petition the Ellis County Commissioners Court for an election to be held to legalize a pair of beer-and-wine propositions. Despite the subsequent social media frenzy of potential "casings" of homes by the door-to-door petitioners, the group collected more than 5,500 verifiable signatures of Ellis County Precinct 4 voters to present to the court, according to an ECG release.
The same statement noted that the number of John Hancock's collected in the northwest portion of the county, which includes Midlothian, Red Oak and parts of Waxahachie, will allow for two propositions to be added, after being approved by the commissioners, to the May ballot.
“Passage of these propositions will help put all our areas currently inside the city limits on the same level playing field,” said Cammy Jackson, President of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce, in the release. “This will help our future retail and restaurant members who build in areas that were annexed after the 2007 election.”
Jackson also noted in a previous Mirror article published Dec. 5 that "it can cost restaurants as much as $3,000 to $20,000 per year to meet the requirements of being a private club. By adopting the same law that already exists in Midlothian, our future restaurants will not have to be a private clubs and incur all these additional costs and fees."
The initial requests for the new propositions to be added to the ballot stemmed from plans to construct Blaine Stone Lodge west of Midlothian. The ECG release notes that the passage of the two propositions will "establish one set of rules for all areas in that part of the county."
As reported by the Mirror in December, the lodge will include a wedding venue, indoor event center, and outdoor attractions — ranging from dirt bikes to an opportunity for patrons to drive heavy machinery, such as front-end loaders and bulldozers. The article also noted that Midlothian and Waxahachie approved beer and wine sales in stores in 2007 and 2008, while Red Oak followed suit in 2010, respectively. The two former municipalities also approved the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants as part of each of their respective elections, but Red Oak did not.
According to the ECG, neither propositions plan to allow for hard liquor sales or liquor stores. Proposition 1 will allow the legal sale of beer and wine "in businesses such as grocery and convenience stores," while Proposition 2 would permit "the legal sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders only. This will allow state recognized restaurants to serve alcohol without requiring the ‘private club’ memberships."
The ECG noted that the latter proposition would allow for Blaine Stone Lodge, or any other venue or establishment, to "have a full working kitchen and to offer signature cocktails to their wedding guests and corporate customers. "
Candi Tebbs of the Midlothian Event Center said the city is "excited about building this luxurious country venue in Ellis County. We will be a destination facility for weddings and special events. Changing this law will allow us to offer a full range of services to our guests."
"But because they are not in the city limits, they are 'dry' for alcohol sales," the Dec. 2015 TPSA release stated. "This will allow them to have a restaurant and old-fashioned general store at the park for their patrons." The ECG release stated that any lands annexed after the previous elections would remain "dry." However, "if voters approve these propositions in May, any areas in Waxahachie, Midlothian or Red Oak also in JP 4, will now be legal for limited alcohol sales."
TPS President John Hatch previously noted that the organization is "proud of the fact that we have helped over 150 Texas communities bring in new retail businesses, created thousands of new jobs and generated millions of dollars in local tax revenue, all without having to raise local property taxes."
Although agendas are not posted until 72 hours prior to a session of the Ellis County Commissioners Court, the ECG release noted that county officials have 30 days to verify the signatures and expects for the court to call the May 2017 election during its Feb. 14 meeting.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith