After decades of being known as the "dry" exit off Interstate 10 between the hub cities of Orange and Beaumont, petitions circulating in the city of Vidor are trying to wet up its reputation with allowing for the sale of alcohol.
Started by the Vidor Committee for Economic Growth through an Austin-based company called Texas Petition Strategies, a group of supporters is circulating two petitions to strike down Vidor’s alcohol restrictions. One petition seeks to legalize the sale of beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores without allowing for liquor store openings, and a second petition is signing up supporters to allow restaurants with special permits to sell mixed drinks.
Standalone bars and nightclubs are not included, Vidor Committee for Economic Growth treasurer and Vidor business owner Brandi Morrison said. Additionally, only registered Vidor voters sign the petitions, which are available at Brookshire Brothers , Walmart, Speedy Stop, Herrera's Towing and Do or Dye Hair Salon, she said.
According to the group, the petitions need nearly 750 qualified signers to bring the issues to a vote. By Wednesday, July 13, more than half that number was already penned on the page, although the signatures will still need to be verified by the Orange County election office. Once verified, each petition would surface in the form of propositions in the November election, but only Vidor voters would cast a ballot on the matters. The group has until July 29 to get the required signatures.
“Vidor is losing valuable tax revenues when people drive out of town to buy beer and wine. Grocery stores report for every $1 lost in beer/wine sales, they lose an additional $3 in general sales. This can be as much as $25,000 to $150,000 per week in lost sales depending on size and store location,” Morrison said.
Other Vidor business owners also cited the tax revenue as a perfect reason to allow alcohol sales in the city.
“Since the law changed in 2003 regarding local control of alcohol sales, nearly 300 cities and communities in Texas have changed their laws to balance the playing field and keep tax money locally supporting their local businesses,” said Genesis Computer owner and Vidor resident Guy Groves. “When people shop in Vidor rather than going to Beaumont or Orange, we keep our tax monies in Vidor paying for our roads, law enforcement, fire departments and other local services.”
Forums have also sprung up on Facebook, with dozens of voters and business owners sounding off on the issue. Although by no means a complete sampling of the city's population, consensus among the large group of vocal social networkers is overwhelmingly in support of the proposal. Rumors have also circulated throughout the community and via the Internet that WalMart is on the verge of moving out of the bedroom community if not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages. These whispers in the wind have caused concern for residents and elected officials alike.
Vidor City Councilman Matt Ortego said he, too, heard talk of the city being in danger of losing WalMart, a vital source of tax revenue for the city.
“It would be a tough blow to the city if that were true,” he said. “It doesn’t seem too far-fetched an idea either.”
Ortego said he supports the petition, if for no other reason that so the voters can have a say. Councilman Trey Haney agreed, saying he felt it was an issue the voters need to make the final judgment on.
”I think the citizens’ voices need to be heard,” Haney said. “We are a democracy, after all.”