The people promoting the Feb. 5 liquor referendum here in Effingham County have one mantra: “Vote for full-service restaurants.” They are promoting the myth that unless we allow distilled spirits, we cannot attract top-quality, national chain restaurants. It sounds reasonable, but it isn’t so.
These kind of restaurants are very expensive, requiring an investment of about $1 million to open. Thus they have strict site requirements for a new franchise about population, traffic, and economic demographics in an area. If liquor were the only thing keeping chain restaurants from coming to Effingham County, then why have we not already seen a Golden Corral or Ryan’s Steakhouse, which do not even sell liquor?
Liquor proponents will reply that while the restaurants require traffic and population, they also require liquor. That simply is not true. If the population is there, they will come, with or without liquor.
Look at Rankin County, Miss., a county in several ways similar to Effingham County. Rankin County is the suburban county east of Jackson. They had two liquor referendums in the past decade and each time liquor proponents told them they had to have liquor to get good restaurants. Both times, the voters said “No.”
After the first vote, Applebee’s opened in Rankin County. Today, Rankin County has Applebee’s in two locations, Ruby Tuesdays in two locations, as well as O’Charley’s, Logan’s Steak House, Texas Lone Star and several other “full-service restaurants.”
Now here is the difference between Rankin County, Miss., and Effingham County — Rankin County has an interstate highway, and it has 150,000 people. As Effingham County grows, we too, will see more restaurants open. Don't believe the myth that we must have liquor to get them. No, with a smaller population, what we are likely to attract with loose liquor laws is seedy bars more than nice restaurants.
The truth is, we are not voting on restaurants. We are voting on bars and liquor! Why vote for something that brings all kinds of social problems with it? Does Effingham County really want to be just like Savannah? I don’t think so.
Learn more about this issue on the Web page of the Effingham Family Association at www.effinghamfamily.org.