Monday, December 04, 2006

Liquor License Lottery Lament

It isn't going to make the history books, but nevertheless today is a watershed date for Santa Rosa County. The Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco today announced 17 winners of liquor licenses in the lottery established after county residents voted to go from "dry" to "wet."

Supposedly, the lottery was random. The PNJ earlier reported that chances of being a winner in the liquor lottery were one in 291.

Tell that to the four of 17 winners who actually live in Santa Rosa county. Among other winners was "William McGuire Martin," a name familiar to Pensacola Beach residents. The Martin family needed another liquor license like Bush needs another war.

Regardless of the winners' identity, near the beach Gulf Breeze and Navarre at last will enjoy what their Santa Rosa Island neighbors one mile across the Sound have had for half a century. Over time, we expect the competition will have a salutary affect on entertainment establishments in both south Santa Rosa County and the beach communities.

A more pronounced change also can be envisioned in up-county places like Pace, Milton, Jay, and Munson. There, daily life will stay much the same, but with the added possibility of dining out somewhere other than a fast-food joint.

Judging from the experience of other states and communities that went from dry to wet, the entertainment and dining market will not change because of the availability of alcohol, per se. Booze, beer, and wine always have been available in Santa Rosa county, as news reports about the arrests of drunken preachers every now and then attest. A limited number of Navarre Beach restaurants enjoyed a 'grandfathered' license status as formerly located inside Escambia County; private 'key-club' operations were common; and law enforcement took a look-the-other-way attitude toward brown-bagging.

No, the reason life won't be quite the same is that with liquor-by-the-drink restaurants, bars, a nightclub or two, and maybe even a comedy club or live theater will be able to afford live musicians upscale facilities, and similar pleasures of modern life which eluded the good citizens of Santa Rosa county for the last century.

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