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March 13, 2012

Hanceville goes wet after 495-398 vote

HANCEVILLE — The city of Hanceville is officially wet.

A majority of the eager onlookers waiting outside City Hall Tuesday night erupted in celebratory hoots and hollers as mayor Kenneth Nail announced that the legalization of alcohol sales in Hanceville had passed by a final vote of 495 to 398.

Seventeen provisional votes had yet to be tallied when the results were posted, which clearly won’t be enough to sway the outcome.

“It’s a relief,” said Eddie Hamm, one of the most vocal and active supporters of Hanceville going wet since the issue was put on the table over two years ago. “This has been ongoing for a long time. We’ve finally done it.”

Nail previously said he hoped the the voters would make their decision known by a “good margin,” regardless of whether that resulted in a wet or dry Hanceville. A winning margin of 97 votes shows the mayor clearly got his wish.

“The voters have spoken,” Nail said. “If the folks don’t like it, two years from now they’ll have an opportunity to petition. If the majority of the citizens of Hanceville don’t like it, they can vote it back out. That’s the law we’ll go by.”

An alcohol ordinance was already passed by Nail and Hanceville’s city council in Feb. 2010, making moving forward a slightly easier process.

“I think that was the proper thing to do,” Nail said of the council’s preparedness. “People have seen what the rules are going to be, and we’re going to stick to them. These businesses are going to follow the rules or they’re not going to sell.”

Nail said he can’t currently pinpoint an exact date for when the first alcohol sales will actually take place in Hanceville. He added that he should know a little bit more about what steps will be taken next after he sits down with the Alabama Beverage Control board on Wednesday.

Nail said he doesn’t think legal sales will increase crime in the city, especially after watching Cullman successfully introduce alcohol sales since the last election.

“I promise the voters and residents of Hanceville this: As long as I’m mayor, it’s not going to be the wild, wild West down here,” he said. “It’s going to be calm. It’s been well behaved in Cullman, and our ordinance is probably stricter than Cullman’s.

“I like when you go into Cullman, you don’t see ‘This Bud’s for you’ or a bunch of beer signs. It will be the same here.”

The council has already decided how the city’s share of alcohol revenues will be distributed — 50 percent will go to the general fund, 35 percent to infrastructure and 5 percent each to the police department, fire department and public schools.

For a city that has experienced its share of hardships — even before the April 27 tornadoes — they’ll welcome any added profit they can get.

“Any mayor that says he doesn’t welcome any extra revenue would be a liar,” Nail said. “We struggle. We really do.”

Added Hamm: “We’re pleased that we can raise some revenue for the city. We’ve been behind the city this whole time.”

Hamm, who owns the Bent and Dent in Hanceville, said he plans on moving the thrift shop to a different location so he can convert the current building into a liquor store.

Josh Chadwick won’t have to jump through so many hoops. As the owner of the Southern Wings Sports Cafe, he’ll just have to add beer to the menu once he receives word that alcohol sales can officially begin. As expected, Chadwick believes being able to provide the “new” beverage will result in a “tremendous, huge” increase in customers.

“We’re ecstatic,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had people come in from out of town and say, ‘Y’all don’t serve here? We were really wanting to sit down and have a beer and some wings.' They go hand in hand.”

Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at robk@cullmantimes.com.

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