Pearland alcohol ban could be up to voters to decide

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Some Pearland residents are making a push to change an alcohol rule

If you want a drink in Pearland, finding one isn't always easy. The fight is now on to change the long-standing alcohol ban.

Up until 2007, Brazoria County remained a dry county. Voters then passed a change, making the county "damp."

Current Brazoria County law only allows beer and wine sales in stores. You must cross into Harris County to find a bar or a liquor store. In order for a restaurant to sell you a mixed beverage, food sales must total more than 51 percent of their business.

Opponents of the current law, like Seth Thompson with the Pearland Chamber of Commerce, argue it's time to go even further. Thompson said voters should get the decision once again about whether they want to open up Pearland to more alcohol sales.

"We're doing this because we think it will increase the local economy. It will bring business here. It will bring commerce and sales tax that is currently leaking to Friendswood, Sugar Land, and Houston," said Thompson. "I mean we're trying to keep our sales tax revenue in Pearland. This is one way to do it."

Thompson explained the issue must be voter approved for any chances to take effect. City council cannot go it alone.

Thompson has helped with two petition efforts over the past year. The first time, they gathered about 2,000 signatures. The second time, they gathered about 5,000 signatures. Thompson said they fell short of the 8,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot.

He said they hope a third time is the charm.

"I'm definitely going to do it again. I don't know when. The November election would be a good time but we're going to have to move fast in order to do that," said Thompson. "If we're going to do it for the November election, we're going to have to get started probably in the next month, month and a half."

There is no organized opposition to a ballot measure at this point. However, supporters of the current law contend keeping the status quo allows Pearland to remain a family friendly community and reduces drunk driving.

Across town at the SpringHill Suites off Highway 288, hotel operator Rushi Patel told abc13 he wants to see the law changed soon. He works for Omkar Group which runs 4 hotels in Pearland.

Patel said the current law proves to be challenging. He agreed tax revenue is being lost to nearby municipalities.

"There's no night life in Pearland. It's a bed room community and that is what it's known for. Unfortunately, most people leave to go up north and once they drink they don't want to drive," said Patel. "This law that we have is unfortunately hindering growth in the sense of tax dollars. People tend to go spend that money somewhere else and not in Pearland."

Patel said changing the rule could prove beneficial.

"Our biggest concern is when we have conference in Houston like the Offshore Technology Conference or the rodeo. When people come here for entertainment and they stay in Pearland, the biggest challenge is where do they go out nearby? Where is the nightlife? Which we don't have," said Patel. "One of the big challenges. People will call and say do you have a ballroom? We don't have but one hotel that can have it because it's a huge impact. When you don't have amenities, you can't attract people to come."

If the petition raises enough signatures and puts the measure on the ballot, voters would ultimately get the chance to for the measure up or down.
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