Warm Southern Breeze

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Booze News You Can Use: Cullman, Alabama city officials delighted with alcohol tax revenue

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, June 5, 2012

For many years, Cullman, Alabama – a tiny town in Central North Alabama, founded by German immigrants in 1873 – had been “dry,” which is to say that there were no legal sales of beverage alcohol in the city.

In fact, the city had been dry for nearly half its existence, having experienced “wet” and dry periods aside even, from national Prohibition.

There had been various referendums in 2004, 2002, 1992, 1990, 1986 and 1984, with the closest vote in 1984, when alcohol sales were voted down by a mere 159 votes.

Cullman had also been the butt of national jokes & mockery because it had the only dry Oktoberfest in the United States. That all changed in 2011, and for the 30th celebration of Oktoberfest that year, celebrants were able to legally sell & enjoy the consumption of beer, wine & liquor.

What is particularly fascinating about this entire ordeal – local prohibition in small-town Alabama – is that it is representative of very fearful, narrow & closed-minded, often religiously-motivated thinking. And in Alabama, that has been the case for a very long, long, long, long, time. Even most recently, the state’s legislature demonstrated that backwards thinking has dominated – and to some extent, continues to dominate – the state’s citizens, because legislators were dealing with two issues that should have been resolved long, long, long ago… cock fighting and the retail sale of beer in containers larger than 12 ounces.

It is extremely ironic that in the state, the general political consensus leans heavily toward Republican & Libertarian-type politics, but they simultaneously continue to exercise prohibitive regulation in so many areas… which is precisely the opposite of such a political mindset. It’s exactly the type of “nanny state” derided by late, former president Ronald Reagan.

And that, my dear reader, is part of the hypocrisy of Republican politics.

City alcohol revenue nets $1.2 million

June 3, 2012

By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — The numbers are in: So, how much money has alcohol revenue raised for the City of Cullman in the first full year of legal sales?

According to financial reports, the city netted a total of $1.2 million in alcohol revenue over the past 12 months, ranging from sales tax revenue to application and licensing fees.

City officials had initially estimated alcohol sales would bring in approximately $1 million annually — after voters approved a “wet/dry” referendum in late 2010 — putting the final total slightly above those projections.

The biggest months from year one included March 2011 with $116,093; June 2011 with $113,833; and January 2012 with $110,615.

Beer and wine tax netted the brunt of the revenue — $635,598 — while alcohol sales tax and liquor tax brought in approximately $451,066. Miscellaneous fees and revenue accounted for the remainder of the total.

Over the 12-month period, alcohol sales brought in an average of just over $100,000 per month to the city’s coffers.

Though officials say the money obviously came at an opportune time, at the tail end of the Great Recession, city council member Jenny Folsom said to this point the revenue has been kept separate until officials could track the projected totals with better accuracy.

“We’ve totally kept this in a separate account, because we wanted to get a feeling for the trend,” Folsom said. “Obviously, we certainly wouldn’t want to obligate that toward something we wouldn’t be able to fund. It has kind of leveled off now, and we believe that should be pretty close to an average for future years moving forward.”

Over the past year, the council has opted to put the revenue toward local non-profit agency allotments, and grants for the downtown facade improvement program, which launched in the wake of the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that hit the city.

“We have used it to fund the non-profits that have asked for funding, like the United Way and Good Samaritan Clinic,” Folsom said. “We’ve also used it for the downtown incentive program for facades and rebuilding.”

For non-profit allocations, the alcohol revenue opened a door that had been closed since 2008 — when the council had to slash 25 percent from the budget in the face of falling revenues.

“At that time, we had to cut back on our funding for civic non-profits, things that we had typically given annual appropriations for,” Folsom said. “So, now, we’re able to get that back up a lot closer to the levels we were at before the recession. By the fall, we should certainly be closer to reaching that level. It was a revenue source that we would not have had, and I don’t know we would’ve been able to provide it.”

Though the council has yet to formally start budgeting for the next fiscal year, Folsom said she anticipates the council will keep the alcohol revenue separate for at least another year.

“With something like that, there is always the issue of it coming up on the ballot to reverse it,” she said. “If that were to happen, then it’s not something you would want to already have obligated. So, that’s something we’ll be looking at in the future.”

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.


UPDATE 12 May 2013: In response to an inquiry regarding the hours and days of legal sale of beverage alcohol in the City of Cullman:

Ordinance No, 2012-03 Amended by Ordinance No. 2012-09 To Provide Further for the Regulation of the Sale and Distribution of Alcoholic Beverages within the City of Cullman, Alabama, Providing Licensing Procedures and Establishing Punishment for Violations

Sec 4-55. Authorized Hours. It shall be unlawful for any person, whether a liquor, wine, or beer licensee to sell, offer for sale, dispense, or offer for reward, of to offer to serve or dispense for reward any liquid, wine, or beer, to to allow the consumption of any alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises or restaurants except during the following hours: Monday from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. midnight, Saturday from from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. midnight, and Sunday – No sales will be allowed. However, it shall not be unlawful from New Year’s Eve until 2:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day (January 1st) of any year unless New Year’s Day (January 1st) fall on a Sunday, then no sales will be allowed.

Adopted & Amended by the City Council, and Approved by the Mayor on 11 January 2011 & 27 December 2011.

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