More than a dozen local bar owners and other volunteers delivered about 7,000 signatures to City Hall on Friday afternoon petitioning for an election to make Denton wet.
The petition seeks a change in local liquor laws to allow Denton bar owners to serve mixed drinks without the private club requirement and to allow liquor stores in the city limits.
The group worked with consultant John Hatch and his company, Texas Petition Strategies, to gather the signatures. They started the last week of May and finished collecting in time to be considered for the November ballot, according to Hatch.
One of the drive’s organizers, Marcus Watson, who is co-owner of Dan’s Silverleaf and manager of Little Guys Movers, said Denton bar owners want to be free of the private club requirement. Bar owners pay about $3,000 a year for the hardware to maintain their membership lists. Other state-required reporting paperwork can be onerous, too.
However, bar owners weren’t sure Denton voters would care about that, Watson said. But he and his group did think voters might care about an estimated $700,000 in annual sales tax revenue that Denton loses to other cities that do allow liquor sales.
“I live here. I’m raising my kids here. That’s something I could get behind,” Watson said.
City Secretary Jennifer Walters has 30 days to verify the signatures, which must equal 35 percent of the total who voted in the last gubernatorial election for the petition to be valid.
Walters said that even though the signatures were submitted with voter identification numbers, she still must review each individual record to make sure the voter lives in a city voting district.
Once validated, the petition has one more step: going before the City Council in August to officially call the election.
Petition supporters have formed a special-purpose committee, Denton First, for the campaign. They hope to raise about $30,000 for signs, mailers and other printed materials to promote the ballot initiative, Watson said.
The committee has an online account to accept donations, www.gofundme.com/Denton-First. But the committee is also raising money the old-fashioned way, Watson said, selling T-shirts designed by a local firm, Pan-Ector Industries, and accepting checks at the Little Guys Movers office, 308 N. Carroll Blvd., Denton TX 76201.
Denton First hopes to raise its funds by Aug. 15.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.