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Alcohol ball now in governments' court
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It’s true actions speak louder than words, and Tuesday’s actions at the polls — with a pencil, lever and touch of a finger — made it loud and clear that Effingham County residents want more options when it comes time to eat.

That’s no slap at the current choices. But as the community grows and as the market follows suit, it stands to reason that more of the well-known restaurant chains will look at Effingham and see it as a viable place to do business in the near future.

For some of those establishments, the ability to sell a mixed alcoholic drink is important to their bottom line. For Effingham County, these restaurants could very well mean another source of revenue for the government coffers, perhaps easing the load placed on property owners.

These are logical assumptions to make, but no one is really sure who would be coming and when and where they might open. The public’s openness to liquor by the drink sales does put the community in a stronger position with west Chatham, which also is booming.

Now that the public has made its intentions clear, it is up to the local governing bodies to put into action laws that will ensure what both sides of the liquor by the drink issue declared they wanted — no bars and no liquor stores.

Springfield already debated a proposed ordinance in advance of the referendum. The county commission also broached the issue even as votes were being cast from Meldrim to Clyo. Commissioners, in a proactive move, want to put a stipulation that at least 55 percent of the profits for any full service restaurant — those that sell liquor by the drink — come from food sales into any ordinance they approve.

Springfield has looked closely at how Statesboro has crafted its liquor by the drink rules. Statesboro’s regulations call for at least a 50-50 split of alcohol and food sales. Rincon hasn’t broached the subject, but that likely is a matter of time.

With the vote behind the community, it now becomes a matter for the elected officials to ensure the laws they write and enact hold true to the wishes of the community and that bars and liquor stores are proscribed in the new ordinances. It also may be beneficial to prospective business owners if the laws, while not necessarily identical, at least be comparable and compatible. It could help to prevent future businesses from playing one government off another.

Now that the community has had its say, it now will be keeping an eye on just what new ordinances are developed and passed.