Booze business bucks: what alcohol sales are generating for once - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Booze business bucks: what alcohol sales are generating for once dry cities

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CULLMAN - AL - Alcohol is flowing through more Alabama cities and counties every year. Since 2009, nearly 20 dry areas have voted on alcohol sales. New tax money is now pouring into a dozen cities that said "yes" to the sales. ABC 33/40 takes a look at the impact it's had on Cullman.

A sign outside Italian eatery Grumpy's advertises karaoke night on a Pepsi banner. If you go to the back of the restaurant, you'll find the local watering hole.

"If we were able to put signs out, I wouldn't anyway," said Tyler Jacobs, owner of Grumpy's Down Under.

That banner and word of mouth is all Jacobs needs to get customers inside for some microbrewed beer and some time at the karaoke mic. Grumpy's Down Under opened after Cullman voters OK'd alcohol sales in 2011.

"Right off the bat, it was slam busy every night Monday through Sunday. We didn't have a slow night," said Jacobs.
 
Busy Bee Cafe, the city's oldest restaurant, changed its menu and installed taps to serve beer.

"When it first started, we had just a few negative remarks. It's been mostly positive. It's done nothing but increase business," said Busy Bee owner Kitty Spears.

Spears was also able to get a few thousand dollars through a city facade project to redo the store front, a project that was paid for by tax dollars from alcohol sales.

"I think it can't do nothing but beautify Cullman, make Cullman better," she said.

Money has also gone to the health department, United Way, Good Samaritan, the library and the Cullman Regional Medical Center, which is receiving $180,000 over the next five years to update its patient rooms.

"It's been proven aesthetics in a room help with healing. We want patients to be comfortable as they can," said Maria Stanford, executive director of the CRMC Foundation.

A 56 percent state tax and a six-percent sales tax are already factored into the retail price of alcohol. For every $10 in alcohol sales, the state receives just over $7 while the City of Cullman and Cullman County get 29 cents and 10 cents, respectively. In 2012, the county hauled in $130,000 in revenue from alcohol sales.

But there's still a lot of buzz about booze and many who opposed it at the polls years ago still do.

"I think everyone sees the difference. When you go into a restaurant and see drink specials on the wall where it used by a meal special," said Ken Allen, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church.

The church has offered assistance for alcoholism in the past. Allen still has concerns about alcohol in Cullman

"There's going to be some ramifications from increased availability of alcohol," he said.

Allen isn't alone. Many others still feel that way. An anti-booze group was created on Facebook last year, and now it's pushing for a dry vote.

Tonight on ABC 33/40 News at 10, we'll take a look at some of the major concerns over alcohol sales, including a possible spike in abuse and drunk driving. Watch the newscast on air or live online by clicking here.

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