UPDATED Nov. 6, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.
By an overwhelming margin, Dacula voters have indicated their support for allowing package stores within the city limits.
Earlier this year, Russ Weaver began a petition drive in hopes of securing enough signatures from Dacula voters to have a package store referendum placed on the November ballot. His efforts were successful.
As a result, city residents headed to the polls today to answer the following question:
“Shall the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled spirits be approved?”
The voters said yes by a 181 to 76 margin. The totals, according to Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks, will remain unofficial until the results of the election are certified.
“The electorate has spoken,” Wilbanks said. “I guess we’ll go from there.”
Now that the measure has passed, Russ Weaver, owner of Bottle Shop & Liquor in Madison, Ga., plans to apply for a license to open a liquor store in Dacula.
“This is going to do Dacula a lot of good. It really is,” Weaver said. “That’s going to be a lot of money for them. I’m proud for them. And, if things go my way, I’m going to open one of the best stores in Georgia. It’s going to be really nice.”
Weaver, who plans to relocate to Dacula should he be chosen as the licensee, was emotional upon learning the election results.
“We’ve put so much into it,” he said. “We hand chose Dacula, Georgia to do this. We could have gone anywhere in the state. We picked Dacula for a lot of reasons -- number one was demographics but we like the area too.”
The whole process has made Weaver even more convinced that Dacula is the right place to be.
“As we met people knocking on doors, it confirmed to me that it’s a nice place to call home and a place I’d like to live with my family,” he explained.
Weaver is hopeful he will have the opportunity to show area residents that a package store can be “first class.”
“I’m just excited,” he said.
According to Weaver, conservative estimates place annual sales tax revenue from a store such as the one he is proposing at $600,000 -- an amount roughly equal to what the City of Dacula currently collects in property tax revenues.
Mayor Wilbanks indicated it would likely be 2014 before the city would be able to determine exactly what impact the store may have on city revenues. In the meantime, the city will begin a process that includes revising the city’s alcohol ordinance, vetting applications, approving licensees and submitting required paperwork to the state. The petitioner will then have to go through the development permit/building permit process, apply for an occupational tax certificate and pass subsequent inspections required for the issuance of an occupational tax certificate. Wilbanks said he expects the process could begin as early as February 2013.
The passage of the package store referendum was not unexpected based on previous election results. During the 2011 special election, city of Dacula voters approved a measure to allow Sunday sales of alcohol in grocery and convenience stores by a 201 to 111 margin. Voters also passed Sunday sales of liquor by the drink by an overwhelming margin -- 198 to 115.
Are you pleased with the results of the election? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.