Ruston residents able to sign petition for expanded alcohol sales

Mayor Ronny Walker signs petition

By Kyle Roberts

Ruston citizens have the chance to sign a petition to call for an election to allow expanded alcohol sales within the city limits.

Louisiana state law require 25 percent of registered voters within the city limits of Ruston, which would equate to approximately 2,800 signatures. If enough signatures are collected, the election would be March 25, 2023.

“I think the people of Ruston have a right to vote on it,” Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said. “What Brookshire’s and Super One and Walmart are wanting is the ability to sell alcohol in the grocery stores. That’s the piece that we’re very interested in. In my eight years as mayor, I’ve had three supermarkets call about coming to Ruston, and every one of them, the first question out of their mouth is, ‘Can we sell liquor?’ No, you cannot. And then they say they can’t come. So that’s huge.”

John Hatch is the president of Hatch Consulting Group, which has been charged with collecting the signatures for the petition. Hatch also represents the Louisiana Economic Growth Committee.

“We have 60 days to get the signatures, and then when we turn them in the to Registrar of Voters, which  has approximately 30 days to verify the signatures,” Hatch said. “At that point they’ll present it to the Ruston City Council, who will then be required to order the election.”

Ruston citizens can sign at both Walmart locations and at Super One Foods. Residents will need to identify which ward and precinct they reside in with staff at the petition area will be able to help residents with the process.

Lincoln Parish residents that live outside the Ruston city limits will not be able to sign, regardless of whether or not they have a Ruston address.

Mayor Walker talked about the benefits that alcohol sales within the city limits would yield to different facets of the city and its residents.

“There’s a tremendous amount of revenue, not just for the city, but for the police jury, for the sheriff, and especially for the school board from the sales tax,” Walker said. “I’ve had so many people ask, will it ever be available in grocery stores? Here’s their chance.”

A group of citizens submitted petitions in 2018, to call the elections, but too many signatures were rejected based on legibility issues and missing information.

“While we had great support last time, state law is extremely strict,” Hatch said. “We had more than enough signatures from qualified voters, but some of the information was illegible and thus rejected by election officials. In addition to the voter signatures, state law requires the voter to list their ward and voting precinct. Most people don’t know that information, so we will have that information on hand so every signature will count. Voters must also list a street address; the state does not allow listing post office boxes.”

The Louisiana Economic Growth Committee is a state registered political action committee,
which has been supported by retailers like Walmart and Brookshire’s who recently supported the
successful election in Bossier Parish Police Jury District 2, Pineville, Minden, Springhill, Oak
Grove, and Haughton.

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