Alcohol issue on June ballot
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 1:00 AM
A citywide referendum on alcohol sales will appear on the June 4 general election ballot after a petition bearing 1,014 names was certified in the city clerk's office.
The Mayor and Board of Aldermen set the date for the alcohol referendum to coincide with the city's general election to avoid a costly separate one.
The referendum will appear on the ballot under the heading "Special Election."
Jeremy Chalmers, spokesperson for the group Philadelphia For a Vote, told aldermen at its Tuesday, March 19 meeting that the petition met all requirements under the law for the referendum to be held.
"You have no discretion on whether or not it goes on the ballot," Chalmers said.
A new state law allows registered voters in municipalities with populations of at least 5,000 to present a petition to a city board calling for a vote on the alcohol issue.
The petition requires the signatures of at least 20 percent of the duly qualified voters in the city.
The new law also outlines the wording which will appear on the ballot: "For the legal sale of alcoholic liquors" or "Against the legal sale of alcoholic liquors."
Under the new law, residents of the county would not have a vote on the referendum. The old law required liquor elections to be countywide even though liquor can be sold only within municipal boundaries.
If voters approve the sale of liquor here, it would be up to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to adopt an ordinance setting the parameters for sales.
The board could restrict the sale to restaurants and/or allow it to be sold in package stores.
Under the city's current ordinance, beer cannot be sold within 100 feet of the main entrance to a church or school. That does not apply, however, if a street runs between the two buildings.
In June 2006, the Board of Aldermen voted to allow beer and light wine to be served in restaurants by the glass. In June 2010, the board amended an ordinance to allow the sale of beer on Sundays from noon until 10 p.m. in restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores inside the city.
Voters in Corinth overwhelmingly approved the sale of liquor and wine in the first election under the new state law.
Earlier this month, voters in New Albany approved wine and liquor sales in its city limits.
If city voters approve the sale of liquor here in June, businesses must obtain a license from the state Department of Revenue before it can be sold.
Findings from an 2010 overall intensive design process or charrette showed that an estimated $12.3 million in sit-down restaurant business leaves Philadelphia annually while about $41 million in grocery shopping is apparently being done elsewhere.
The data showed a need to recruit sit-down restaurants as well as a grocery store or the expansion of existing grocery stores.
While developers associated with two or more chain restaurants have showed an interest in the Philadelphia area, the opportunity to sell alcohol by the glass is a very important issue, city officials have said.