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Movement grows for County liquor sales

Local restaurateur Randy Burleson is hoping to put a referendum on the November ballot to allow liquor by the drink sales in Knox County.

Currently, restaurants outside the City of Knoxville or town of Farragut limits cannot sell liquor by the drink unless they are annexed into one of the two municipal limits. Burleson’s Cedar Bluff Aubrey’s location is such a restaurant.

“I can sell beer, which is an alcoholic beverage, but unfortunately, I cannot sell wine, which is an alcoholic beverage ... it doesn’t make much sense,” Burleson said.

Burleson said beer is considered food, but wine and spirits are classified as liquor by the drink.

“One of the problems has always been that if a restaurant did want to go to a community [in the County], the restaurant had to ask for annexation into the City of Knoxville or the town of Farragut.

“As a means of minimizing that request and the finger annexations ... [we] are trying to get this passed so that restaurants can stay in Knox County,” Burleson said.

“This was a movement started by Commissioner [R.] Larry Smith out of the Halls community because they have no chain restaurants out in Halls or any large locally-owned restaurants, and the reason has always been that there’s no liquor by the drink in the County,” Burleson said.

Burleson also is partnering with Citizens for Home Rule, a pro-property rights, anti-annexation group chartered in 1980.

“If it was only good for consumer choice and it only facilitated a greater choice in better restaurants, it would be worth it, but it does much more than that,” said John Emison, president of Citizens for Home Rule.

“It is going to create more tax revenue because we are charged 24-and-a-quarter percent tax on liquor by the drink versus the nine-and-a-quarter sales tax on beer,” Burleson said.

“So there’s a lot more revenue for the County, which only goes to help the park and school systems,” he added.

Burleson said liquor by the drink sales would help restaurants control the amount customers drink, preventing diners from drinking too much when brown-bagging liquor.

“The restaurant would have a server monitoring this person ... a manager would be involved to cut this person off, and the owner would make sure this person does not leave intoxicated,” Burleson said.

“I would say it adds more protection to the residents of the County,” he added.

The petition needs 13,000 signatures to make it on the November ballot.

“We’re quite hopeful we’ll get the signatures; that’s really a doable number,” Emison said.

“I think it will pass rather easily, probably by a large margin. But there will be those people who oppose anything regarding alcohol on a moral basis, and I understand that,” Emison said.

“At the same time, most of those people probably frequent restaurants that have a bar, they just don’t go in them ... it enhances everybody’s restaurant choices, even if you never take a drink,” he added.

The petitions can be found at all Aubrey’s locations in Knox County or at


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