Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Alcohol petition successful; issue will go to ballot

Nancy Bergeron
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Article Image Alt Text

Leader file photo A petition pushed by Walmart and Brookshire's to call a referendum on alcohol sales in Ruston was successful. The parish Registrar of Voters has finished certifying the signatures. The issue is expected to head to a public vote in March.

See Wednesday’s Ruston Daily Leader for more information

The second time was the charm for backers of a move to expand alcohol sales in the city of Ruston.

A petition calling for a public vote was successful, Lincoln Parish Registrar of Voters Sharon Parnell said late Tuesday.

The required certification document was delivered late Monday afternoon to Mayor Ronny Walker. The petition’s success means a resolution setting the referendum for March 25, 2023, will be on aldermen’s Monday night agenda. By law, the board must call the referendum.

According to the document, 3,344 signatures were garnered and 2,793 were certified as genuine. That’s 339 more signatures than petitioners needed. Backers had to get at least 2,454 valid signatures — that’s the required 25% of Ruston voters — to require aldermen to call the vote.

“They were pretty thorough in what they turned in,” Parnell said.

At issue is whether grocery and convenience stores should be able to sell wine and higher-content alcohol. Walmart and Brookshire’s, parent company of Super 1, are spearheading the move.

The Louisiana Growth Strategies Committee, a political action committee supported by the stores, began the petition drive Sept. 14. The 512-page document was handed over to Parnell on Oct. 20.

Some 551 signatures were rejected, mostly because the signers didn’t live in Ruston, Parnell said. Others were missing correct voting ward and precinct, or other required information, she said.

John Hatch, the Texas consultant whose organization ran the petition drive, said the petition’s success is only the first part of the process.

“Now you’ve got to get out and vote,” he said.

Hatch said that campaign will probably start in February.

The move by Walmart and Brookshire’s to expand local alcohol sales first appeared 2018. But that year’s petition fell short by 31 verifiable signatures.

Changing the law would allow grocery stores to be able to sell beer, wine, and spirits. Supporters say Ruston is losing tax revenue and jobs because residents are forced to drive to other surrounding communities like Grambling and Monroe to purchase alcohol.

State law requires voters be presented with five “yes” or “no” options.

Each option would be voted on separately and would pass or fail on its own vote — just as they did in 2002 when Ruston voters allowed restaurants to begin selling wine and mixed drinks.

Here is what would be on the ballot.

• Allowing stores to sell package alcoholic beverages with less than 6 percent alcohol content. That’s currently allowed in Ruston.

• Allowing beverages with less than 6% alcohol content to be consumed on premises. That’s also currently allowed in Ruston.

•Allowing consumption on premises of alcoholic beverages containing one-half or 1 % more alcohol by volume.

• Allowing sale of alcoholic beverages containing one-half or 1% or more alcohol by volume by package only and not for consumption on premises. This is the addition the corporations want.

• Allowing high-and low-content sales in restaurants only. That’s also currently allowed in Ruston.