A referendum passed Tuesday night will now see licensed establishments in unincorporated areas of Williamson County be able sell alcohol by the drink, areas such as Grassland, Leiper’s Fork and College Grove.

The changes will go into effect immediately following the verification of the votes by the Williamson County Election Commission, which is required to be completed by the end of November.

The referendum passed with more than 75 percent voting to approve the referendum, with 21,573 for, 6,862 against.

Williamson County Commissioner Barbara Sturgeon was instrumental in placing the referendum on the ballot. Living in an unincorporated area of Williamson County herself, Sturgeon believes that allowing establishments to sell alcohol by the drink will not only attract more businesses, but help foster and develop stronger communities.

“I thought it did splendidly, I don’t think you could really ask for it to be much better than that,” Sturgeon said in response to the huge support the referendum saw. “I believe it’s going to make the unincorporated areas just a little bit more business friendly. There’s more we could do, but I’m glad it worked.”

In addition to attracting new businesses, Sturgeon also said she believes the new law will help support current businesses in unincorporated areas, as some had been shut down in recent years.

The grocery store Grassland Foodland permanently shut its doors in January of this year. The owner had reportedly tried to change state laws to allow for the sale of wine beforehand, which proved unsuccessful.

While the referendum will now allow establishments such as restaurants to sell alcohol for consumption at their places of operation, the sale of wine at businesses such as grocery stores is still prohibited in unincorporated areas.

When asked if she plans to target the prohibited sale of wine in unincorporated areas next, Sturgeon said she would do so if her constituents asked her to.

“I’m very pleased that this passed by such a large margin,” Sturgeon wrote in an email. “It is confirmation that initiating this measure is inline with the will of the people I represent and that the Williamson County Commission represents. This is just one step towards making the commercial areas of unincorporated Williamson County more business friendly which will ultimately provide more convenience and more options for residents.”

Restaurants and other establishments wishing to serve alcohol by the drink may now apply to the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission, with approval pending the verification of votes.

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