Alcoholic beverage issue has political problems

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CHAPEL HILL - As the prospect of private management of the restaurant at Henry Horton State Park was raised recently, the question about whether wine could be served with meals, just as beer is now sold at the park's golf course clubhouse.

Doing so could "do more harm than good," according to Jim Fyke, Tennessee's commissioner of environment and conservation, who met for a couple of hours on Friday morning with several county leaders who are concerned that the state park restaurant is not in next year's budget.

Tennessee's next budget starts on July 1. Without significant change, the restaurant remains slated for closure next fall.

Alcoholic beverages and beer sales at the park "can be expanded," Fyke replied to an open-ended question, but his discussion on that side of the equation was acknowledging that it's a legal possibility, and less of a political probability.

State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) was among the local leaders in the conference room at Henry Horton Inn and he volunteered his analysis of the situation.

Ketron started by taking "philosophical opposition and ideology off the table."

"Look at the economics," continued Ketron, a member of the Legislature's State and Local Government Committee that's recently considered "premier tourist resorts" including one in Clarksville and one in Chattanooga nearly a week earlier.

Fishing camps and resorts around a lake have been authorized to sell alcoholic beverages "because it's so hard to survive on food only," he said.

Applicants go to state panels for authorization instead of local boards, he said.

"Some people don't like for it," Ketron said of lawmakers, but "most allow wine and beer...

"Some ... wouldn't put themselves in a position of voting for it," he said.

"I've had two (businesses) interested in coming here but it's if they could sell beer," the state senator said.

TDEC has been gradually increasing the number of state golf courses where beer may be sold. It's been approved at five. There could be 11.

Expanding such sales beyond golf courses to restaurants "is a real tough call," Fyke said.

Copyright 2010 Marshall County Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.