Erath County voters support expanded alcohol sales in the November election
By: Elizabeth Black
During the election held on Nov. 2, a special vote was added to the ballot for all Erath County voters. The county was previously considered partially wet, which allowed the sale of beer and wine in stores and restaurants were allowed to serve alcohol as long as customers joined a private club. The proposition expanded alcohol sales in the county including beer, wine and hard liquor. The changes made will lead to liquor stores in the county, private club requirements will be removed in restaurants, bars and restaurants can stay open till 2 a.m.
Out of a total of 24,012 registered votes in Erath County, only 3,601 voters participated in the election. Of the participants, 935 votes cast were against the proposition while 2,655 votes were in support.
Students at Tarleton State University and people in the Stephenville area are aware of the drive to get mixed drinks in different counties.
From Stephenville, the closest liquor store is Handy Liquor in Proctor, which is a 21-minute drive in one direction. Residents could also travel to Granbury, which has a Specs but is over a 30-minute drive one way.
Handy Liquor has been around for several generations of college students. The store sits on the other side of the Comanche County line and has been the closest and most reliable source of alcohol for years.
Tarleton alumni, Steve Fletcher, graduated in 1978 and participated in the tradition of driving to Proctor to get drinks.
“We would drive to Proctor, but it wasn’t very often because we didn’t have enough money to buy anything. Maybe once a week a group of us would pull our money and buy a six-pack with it,” Fletcher said.
During that time, Granbury also did not sell alcohol, therefore the options were limited to Proctor or Glen Rose, which were both a 30-minute drive one way similar to a trip to Specs in Granbury.
Stephenville and Tarleton are continuing to grow and the changing of the regulations for alcohol sales in the county will allow for more businesses to come to the area.
The Executive Director of the Stephenville Economic Development Authority Jeff Sanford said, “From a strictly developmental viewpoint, we have witnessed firsthand the impact this decision has had on various businesses, primarily restaurants and their consideration of Stephenville for future expansion opportunities.”
According to the HealthyNTexas website, the percentage of alcohol-related deaths while driving in Erath County has remained under 20% since 2018. The number of people who are participating in alcohol-related activities and then driving has decreased since 2014.
Senior communications major Casey Hobbs said she has been in a college town when the liquor sale rule changed and she is concerned for the well-being of the students.
“It didn’t affect me directly, but I did notice that we had a higher death rate because it was a college town and we had a lot of students, you know, drinking liquor and driving thinking I live just down the road I will be fine and that wasn’t the case,” Hobbs said.
Changes are coming to the area and the students at Tarleton will have to adapt to the new atmosphere around them and continue to practice good safety measures when drinking alcohol.
Sanford said, “The outcome of the vote does not force every consumer to partake, however it does help to even the promotion of fair business practices.”
Stores and restaurants will still be required to follow the rules and regulations that come with a hard liquor license.