Group works to change alcohol sales laws, eliminate “dry” areas in Belton

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:44 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A group in Belton is working to get state lawmakers to pass legislation that changes the limitations on alcohol sales in their city.

Beer and wine sales have actually been legal in Belton since 1987, and since then, voters in Belton have elected to legalize alcohol sales in restaurants, as well as in areas of the city that were annexed after the ‘87 election.

As a result, some parts of Belton are “wet,” meaning alcohol sales are legal. Other areas, however, are “dry,” meaning alcohol sales are prohibited due to prohibition-era restrictions.

This time next year, residents of Belton could be able to buy high proof wines and spirts in their town.

But that’s only if a group of restaurant owners and community leaders have their way.

The group is looking to make a change to Belton’s alcohol sales laws that would not only allow all parts of the city to sell alcohol but would allow the presence of fine wine and spirts retailers.

And if you ask the city’s mayor, he’ll tell you that passing this law is about more than making it easier to have a drink.

“We want to be able to live and work in the same community,” said David Leigh, Belton’s mayor.

“We lose a lot of patronage when people have to go outside the city of Belton, and we’d like to keep all of that.”

There are parts of the city of Belton that fall all over the spectrum.

Some with the city’s most lax alcohol laws, some that fall under the middle of the road, and some that are completely dry.

And according to the petition’s organizer, that’s why they’ve got a unique obstacle.

“The biggest opposition we’re going to have is just voter confusion,” said John Hatch with Texas Petition Strategies.

“There are going to be voters who think, ‘we’re already wet.’ Well, no, actually you’re not. So, we don’t expect opposition in the true sense of opposition to alcohol sales, it’s more going to be voter confusion.”

According to a study provided to KWTX by the city of Belton, expanding their laws to allow the sale of fine wine and spirits could bring nearly six million extra dollars of spending to the city, as well as a little over 125,000 more in sales tax revenue.

It’s those numbers that make it easy for, Arbnor Shala, owner of Napoli’s Italian Bistro in downtown Belton, to support the cause.

“I just want to support local businesses, and help people bring more revenue to the city of Belton,” said Shala.

The group is looking for almost nineteen hundred signatures to call for an election on the issue in May of 2024.