Previous “Dry” Vote Muddies Dallas Wet/Dry Election

Even if Dallas residents say yes to citywide alcohol sales in November, historically dry parts of the city may not necessarily see huge changes.

Ultimately, the county and city determine if a location is in a wet or dry area, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said. When applying for an alcohol license, a business must obtain certificates from the city secretary and county clerk certifying that its location is in a "wet" area.

If the city and/or county does not issue the certificates, the business has to either withdraw its application or request a hearing to challenge the certification.

Currently, Dallas is a patchwork of wet and dry areas.

Opponents to Dallas-wide alcohol sales say the vote shouldn't affect Oak Cliff's dry status. Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said a 120-year-old justice of the peace precinct vote to be dry should take precedence over the citywide election.

"The people in the southern portion of the city moved into a dry area and should be the ones to have the right to keep their area the way they moved into it," he said.

Dallas annexed Oak Cliff in 1903.

But Keep the Dollars in Dallas, who support citywide alcohol sales, disagrees.

"The old JP district they’re talking about was never wholly contained within the city limits of Dallas," group spokesman Gary Huddleston said. "It was part of another city and part of the city of Dallas, so therefore, their argument in our view does not have weight."

In Texas, entire counties, individual cities and justice of the peace precincts have local control over what types of alcoholic beverages can be legally sold, according to the TABC.

According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, an election in an incorporated city would prevail over a status determined by a justice precinct unless the city also contains all of the incorporated city.

While Huddleston said the territory of the justice of the peace precinct that voted to be dry is not all within Dallas city limits, others have said the precinct is all within Dallas.

But according to the Texas Secretary of State's website, a dry area that is annexed to a wet city retains its original status. A citywide election must be held to reverse the annexed area's "local option" status. The election must be citywide and cannot be held in just the dry area.

A group opposed to citywide alcohol sales has filed a lawsuit to block the November vote. The group questions the number of valid signatures on the petition for the referendum and claims that a citywide election cannot change dry restrictions that are already in place.

Matt Spillers, of Eno's Pizza Tavern, said he hopes Dallas voters approve citywide alcohol sales. He said he and other restaurant owners in Oak Cliff pull double duty because of the area's dry status.

"We are a restaurant, and our restaurant sells food and nonalcoholic beverages," he said.

"Then we have another business," he said. "That's a private club, and that private club can sell its alcohol to its members."

Spillers said it means more work for Eno's staff and higher prices for customers -- which could change if Oak Cliff went wet.

"That makes our cost go down," he said. "That gives us more opportunity to offer more affordable options."

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