Haughton residents being encouraged to get alcohol sales vote on ballot

2602
Haughton officials sign a petition in February 2019 to put a proposal on an upcoming ballot to extend alcohol sales in the town. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

A movement in the Town of Haughton is asking residents to sign a petition calling for an election to approve additional alcohol sales in stores.

A group of the town’s citizens and members of the Louisiana Economic Growth Committee are hoping to change the laws that would in turn recruit major grocery stores and restaurants to the area. 

Currently in Haughton, only the sale of beer is allowed, which means that grocery stores and restaurants decline locating in the town. This causes Haughton residents to travel elsewhere to purchase groceries or enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant, and the town loses local sales tax revenue.

“Alcohol sales in restaurant can be as much as 25 percent of the revenue, so not being able to sell alcohol limits our ability to recruit quality restaurants to Haughton. This is not an issue if you support consumption of alcohol, it is a decision of where do you want Haughton to go and the economic (future of) our town,” said Lea Stroud, chairwoman of the zoning and planning commission for the Town of Haughton.

According to the Business Research Center at Southeastern Louisiana University, Haughton is losing more than $12.2 million dollars annually, in local sales to neighboring communities due to the lack of retailers and restaurants that sell alcohol.  

“When people drive out of town to purchase groceries or go out to eat, Haughton loses more than $12 million dollars in sales, and valuable tax revenues and jobs.  Those tax monies could be used by city leaders to repair roads, support law enforcement, parks and libraries,” said Haughton Mayor Jack Hicks.  

One particular area a grocery store or restaurant could locate is the land opposite the Pilot Truck Stop. Mark Sealy, of Sealy and Company real estate group, would like to recruit a new development to the location.

“When we talk to grocery store retailers or restaurant groups, one of the first questions they ask is if the property is ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ for alcohol sales.  When we tell them ‘dry’ or it only has beer sales, they typically say, ‘No’ and look elsewhere,” Sealy said, “We would like to bring a store to Haughton and changing the law will help.”

Economic gain is not the only benefit, as highway safety is also a positive. 

“Not only is this an economic issue,” noted former town councilwoman, Melba Baker, “but studies show that allowing people to shop closer to home and not having to drive out of town to purchase alcohol actually decreases the number of alcohol related vehicles accidents.”

The Louisiana Economic Growth Committee is a state registered political action committee that has been supported by retailers like Wal-Mart and Brookshires, who recently supported the successful election to allow alcohol sales in Bossier Parish Police Jury District 2.    

Petitioners will need to receive 25 percent of the registered voters in the district, around 580. Only those who live inside the city limits are eligible to sign the petitions. If enough signatures are gathered, the Parish Voter Registrar will notify the Town Council they must call the election for this October.   

That petition is being handled by Hatch Consulting Group, an out-of-state firm that specializes in getting alcohol propositions on ballots in areas that are currently dry.