Voters: 'Yes' to 'The City With Spirit(s)'

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 11/7/18

Cleveland has been nicknamed “The City with Spirit” since 2012. After yesterday’s election and the successful passage of a package store referendum, it’s also “The City with Spirits.”

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Voters: 'Yes' to 'The City With Spirit(s)'

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Cleveland has been nicknamed “The City With Spirit” since 2012. After Tuesday’s election and the successful passage of a package store referendum, it’s also “The City With Spirit(s).”

Although Cleveland has had liquor by the drink since 2002, and wine in grocery stores since 2014, Tuesday's referendum marks the opportunity for package stores — also known as liquor stores —to open in the city.

John Sheehan, who in February successfully initiated a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot, was happy with the outcome. He hosted a small, private election-results watch party at his home and spoke with the Cleveland Daily Banner by phone as the final results came in.

“We think we won them all,” Sheehan said of Bradley County’s 10 (inside the city) voting precincts where the package store referendum was on the ballot.

That assessment was close, with only the Michigan Avenue precinct going against package stores, with 65 voting not to permit compared to 62 voting to permit.

The first indication of how the vote would eventually go came in the form of early and absentee voting results. In all, 8,649 early and absentee votes were cast in the package store referendum, with 4,887 (56.5 percent) voting to permit and 3,762 (43.5 percent) not to permit.

As the precinct results were tabulated, the “yes vote” trend continued, with Election Day votes of 2,726 to permit and 1,661 not to permit.

For precinct-by-precinct results, see Page A9.

In all, 13,036 total votes were cast in the referendum: 7,613 in favor of package stores, and 5,423 against.

“I think that’s a pretty big statement by the city of Cleveland (voters) that they really wanted it,” Sheehan said of the election results.

In previous interviews with the Banner, Sheehan said if the package store referendum is approved, he plans to apply for a license; if granted a license, he plans to open a store.

Sheehan confirmed he is in the process of “building a very big store” at 157 Ocoee Crossing, near the Food City Plaza and down the street from Chick-fil-A and Aubrey’s.

“The building is currently under construction,” he said. “I look forward to the opportunity to being issued a license and opening a store that the city of Cleveland can be proud of.”

Pending the application process, Sheehan said he would like to open his package store within 60 days of when the city approves his license – if that process goes as he hopes.

In a separate article published earlier this month, Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas told the Cleveland Daily Banner he had not yet prepared any regulatory provisions if the referendum were to pass.

“At this point, we have not put together a plan,” Fivas said. “We will wait to hear the voice of the people to consider our next steps.”

Fivas said  if the referendum passed, the city would review policies utilized in other cities where package stores have been approved by voters.

“We will look at best practices throughout the state and see what has been done successfully,” Fivas said.

Fivas added that the timeline for writing ordinances is dependent on the city council. For example, a public hearing will be conducted, as well as first and second readings for any resolution that is proposed.

“We want the opportunity to hear from the community,” Fivas said.


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