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Elections

Madison Co. Approves Liquor, Wine Sales By Package and Glass

wine glass on table
Jessica Palombo
/
WFSU-FM

Voters in Madison Co. have overwhelmingly chosen to allow the sale of alcohol there, bringing the number of so-called dry, or partially dry, Florida counties down to three. On Tuesday, a landslide 62 percent of voters said they’d like restaurants and stores to begin serving drinks above the previous limit of 6.2 percent alcohol.

The approval comes after an eight-month campaign by Madison Co. business promoters. After neighboring Suwannee Co. voted to end its prohibition on alcohol sales last year, Former Madison Chamber of Commerce executive director Ted Ensminger organized the group MadisonYES! to make the change there too.

He says, two upscale restaurants had been begging him to help them get permission to sell wine with dinner.

“And, regretfully, they came and went before we could actually make this thing happen," he says. "So, my whole catalyst for doing this is for economic development.”

He also says wine and liquor sales should be good for a local resort that does wedding receptions and for business developments planned near the county’s four Interstate-10 exits. 

Ensminger says, he and several volunteers gathered more than 3,000 petition signatures and raised money to spread the word. At one fundraiser, they raffled off a Harley Davidson wagon and a shotgun.

Before Tuesday, the county already allowed the sale of beer below the 6.2 percent alcohol-content threshold. But Michael Halley, who lives 14 miles outside the county seat, in Greenville, says even that was too much.

At the urging of a couple of local pastors, he says, he had organized an opposition group called Concerned Citizens of Madison County. Halley, who says alcohol was involved in the deaths of some of his family members, thinks any economic benefit will be outweighed by negative consequences.

“Common sense tells me that if you make liquor more available, you’re going have more impaired drivers on the road," he says.

Actually, last year, the DUI conviction rate in Madison Co. was slightly higher than the state average.

Now, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must officially lift the prohibition before wine and liquor are sold.