Sullivan Co. restaurant owners and diners react to possible liquor-by-the-drink

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SULLIVAN CO., Tenn. (WJHL)- Voters in Sullivan County will not only be seeing candidates on the ballot on November 3; those outside of the city limits of Bristol and Kingsport will decide if restaurants in the rest of the county can serve liquor-by-the-drink.

“If you can go to the city of Bristol and sit down and have a drink, you should be able to do that in other areas of the county,” said Steve Hildebrand who lives in Bluff City. “We’re not all drinkers by any means, but also we do enjoy having a drink with a meal.”

Back in February, Sullivan County commissioners almost unanimously voted to create a referendum on whether liquor-by-the-drink should be allowed.

Right now, only restaurants in Bristol and Kingsport can serve alcohol. Restaurants in areas like Piney Flats, Blountville, and Bluff City would have the option to sell alcohol if the referendum passes.

“There’s a lot of customers asking when we are going to start bringing at least beer and wine and stuff like that,” said Ed Hashem who owns Giovanni’s in Piney Flats.

Hashem hopes it passes so he can expand his restaurant.

“You get more customers…the servers and staff will make more money this way, too,” Hashem said.

In Blountville, Boonie’s Restaurant and Pizzeria owner, Johnny Morris says if it passes he won’t be serving alcohol at his restaurant.

“We get a lot of family-oriented people, elderly people…I don’t know that they want that, and I think that’s why we get that business,” Morris said.

However, Morris thinks it will help other businesses in the county.

“We don’t have alcohol and don’t want alcohol but I think a lot of places… it’ll help drive business because people are interested in that,” Morris said.

Half of the revenue from liquor-by-the-drink sales would go to the state if passed. The other half would come back to Sullivan County. This revenue would be split between city and county school systems and the county’s general fund.

If passed commissioners hope businesses can start applying for liquor licenses by January of next year

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