A handful of Robinson residents hope to gather enough signatures during the next 60 days to prompt a vote in the November election that could allow expanded alcohol sales in the city.
Donna Hartstack said she picked up 15 sheets with 10 signature spaces per page from City Hall on Thursday. She needs to get 1,060 signatures from registered voters by May 9 to get the measure on the ballot. Residents who sign show support for a referendum to allow the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage license holders only.
“This petition will not, has nothing to do with, bars or liquor stores. They will not be allowed into our community, not by this petition,” Hartstack said.
A group of residents set up a Facebook page — Robinson Petition Drive 2016 — in hopes of informing their neighbors and finding volunteers to help collect the required signatures.
Heather Dudley, who has lived in the city most of her life, said Robinson has a lot of great potential. It’s a good community, and residents care about their town, Dudley said.
Legalizing the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders will allow the city to open its doors to more development possibilities and growth, she said. Some corporate restaurants won’t move to an area where they can’t sell mixed beverages, and there is a lot of vacant property begging for development that can’t be ignored, Dudley said.
Hartstack said approval of the ballot measure would ease the tax burden and broaden the tax base by expanding possibilities for companies wanting to move to Robinson. She said it may take some time after the ballot measure is approved to see a difference, but she’s sure it will help.
“It will give our city an opportunity to market Robinson more effectively because currently we cannot get chain restaurants or hotels because most of them have a bar or sell mixed drinks,” Hartstack said.
An increased tax revenue could potentially allow the city to spend more money improving roads and infrastructure and bring jobs to the area, she said.
“There’s a lot of benefits to our community if we pass this,” she said.
But first, she said, she has to get enough signatures to get the topic on the ballot.
Hartstack said supporters plan to hold signing events throughout the city.
Cities across the state have adopted a combination of allowances pertaining to the sale of alcohol and liquor. Some cities allow the sale of beer and wine only, and some only allow sales in restaurants.
In November, Bellmead residents chose to expand their options. Voters approved two alcohol-related measures. Proposition 1 allowed liquor to be sold by the glass, including mixed beverages for on-site consumption in restaurants and bars. Proposition 2 allowed liquor to be sold in stores, then consumed off-site.
A handful of other McLennan County cities over the years have voted on alcohol-related measures.
Crawford residents in May 2014 approved the sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption only. Leroy residents in November 2011 passed a measure to allow the sale of all alcoholic beverages except mixed beverages. In November 2009, Hewitt residents approved the sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption only.
The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Code allows for alcohol sales to be decided countywide, in a city or in individual justice of the peace precincts.
McLennan County, like most counties in the state, is not considered completely wet. It has a patchwork of city laws governing alcohol sales.
As of November 2015, there are 53 completely wet counties in Texas, and seven completely dry counties, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Two decades ago, there were 53 completely dry counties.
Dudley said she doesn’t find the task of collecting so many signatures daunting because she’s heard so many positive comments about the petition from other residents. She said Robinson is a small town, and neighbors are close. This measure won’t change that, she said.
“We’re not seeking out allowance of liquor stores and bars,” Dudley said. “I don’t think anybody really wants that in our community.”
The group is seeking volunteers to help with door-to-door foot work, assist at signing events and spread the word. Hartstack said anyone with questions can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor Bert Echterling did not return calls for comment.