Sullivan County approves on-premise consumption referendum, Mayor: ‘Sullivan County has been a few years behind, but catching up ‘


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Sullivan County residents Tuesday passed a referendum allowing on-premise consumption at restaurants outside Kingsport and Bristol city limits. One Blountville restaurant owner thinks this would help bring the county into the future.

Dixie Outpost Barbecue Co-Owner Kay Kinkead told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that this measure will help with the growth of their 18-month-old business, as well as other businesses like it.

“Without a passing of the liquor license in Sullivan County, we won’t see the growth that we need to in this area. You’ve got hotels that have got liquor-by-the-drink, but you don’t have restaurants, so it’s time that we come to the front line and accept that, for growth, we’re going to have to step into the future,” She said.

Kinkead added that business is going well, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, this liquor-by-the-drink referendum could help.

“This is a rural area, people look for things to do, especially during the pandemic, and to be able to come out and listen to live music here at Dixie Outpost on the patio, and be social and have a social drink, might be something we look into in the future,” she said.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that the tax revenue from alcohol sales would go toward education, not only within the county, but at a state level as well.

“Obviously, we don’t have a projection of what the revenue stream would be, but 50 percent of all the taxes generated by alcohol sales, will go to (state) education, and 50 percent will come back to the county, and then half of that 50 percent will go to education, so 75 percent of all the taxes generated by liquor sales in unincorporated Sullivan County, would go into our education system. That would, in effect, keep our property taxes lower than they have been in the past. Honestly, the county has very few revenue streams and the burden of county government is on the property owners, and we’re doing everything we can to keep that burden as small as possible, look for other ways to generate revenues, so we think it’s a real step forward for Sullivan County,” Venable explained.

What’s next?

Aaron Rummage, Director of Legislation, Policy, and Communication for the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent the following statement to News Channel 11:

“Once the county election commission certifies the results of the referendum and notifies our agency, individuals will be able to apply for an on-premise consumption license located within that referendum area.”

Aaron Rummage, Director of Legislation, Policy, and Communication for the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission

“We have some legal issues to go through. We have to notify, of course, the Secretary of State of the referendum and the successful referendum, our county clerk will notify the ABC boards in Nashville that we’re eligible to that and then they’ll be ready to receive applications from local businesses and hopefully, we can locate some out-of-area businesses to locate in Sullivan County, so it’s a tourism tool, it’s an economic development tool for jobs and things of that nature and so, again, Sullivan County has been a few years behind, but catching up and trying to do our best we can to keep property taxes low,” Venable added.

Bluff City also Tuesday passed a referendum allowing packaging stores, which sell liquor, within their city limits.

“Bluff City did pass a referendum on package stores for their city, so that will be a much-needed revenue stream for them, and it’s not that we’re taking money from one place to another place, it’s generating new revenue. I think the citizens made good choices and I hope they understood exactly what they were voting on and again, it’s just a step forward for Sullivan County. We don’t compete with the cities but we compliment each other,” Venable said.

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