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

'Yes 'em All,' After All

All alcohol propositions pass in Ruston
Nancy Bergeron
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Article Image Alt Text

Ruston voters approved all five alcohol propositions on Saturday’s local-option referendum ballot.

Complete but unofficial returns show voters heartily supported allowing restaurants to continue to offer a full array of alcoholic beverages, as well allowing package beer sales and beer-only bars to continue.

By a smaller margin, voters said grocery stores can now can sell high- and low-content beverages for off-premises consumption. They also approved traditional bars, but by only 82 votes.

Voter turnout for Saturday’s referendum was approximately 19%.

“It was a great night for Ruston,” Mayor Ronny Walker said. “I think the thing that was overwhelming to me more than anything else was the fact that we had about 19% turnout.”

Both propositions allowing beer sales and the one allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine and liquor had strong support from the early voting tallies to the final precinct.

Proposition 1, that permits package beer sales, passed with 81% of the vote. Proposition 2, that permits beer-only bars, passed with 79% of the vote, while Proposition 5, the one dealing with restaurants, also got 81% of the vote.

Those three options are currently legal in Ruston and were endorsed by both supporters and opponents of the traditional bar and grocery store options.

Proposition 3, the one that allows free-standing bars, was almost evenly split between “yes” and “no” votes until the final precincts came in. That changed the tally from 50% each way to 52% in favor and 48% against.

Proposition 4, that expands alcohol availability in grocery stores, carried with 59% of the vote. It, too, was close as the returns came in, staying within a few percentage points of the final number.

Propositions 3 and 4 were opposed by a group of mostly small business owners, calling themselves Keep Ruston Ruston.

“We did everything we could. We just couldn’t quite get it over the hump,” Keep Ruston Ruston spokesman Ben Humphries said.

It was Proposition 4 that initially was the crux of the referendum. That’s because Walmart and Brookshire’s, parent company of Super 1 Foods, wanted to be able to sell wine and hard liquor, as well as beer.

The companies contended that what’s customers want, and that Ruston’s losing sales tax revenue by limiting alcohol to just beer.

John Hatch, the Texas consultant who pushed the referendum for the corporations, said the companies are “very pleased” with the outcome.

“It was a good night all the way around,” he said. “I feel great.”

Walker said the city’s new safety net ordinances will protect Ruston from any proliferation of bars, as well as shield the city from package liquor stores.

What happens now is Saturday’s results must be certified and a permitting process put in place for bars and expanded grocery store sales. Officials said Saturday night they aren’t sure how long it will before permits are available.