Three Cheers for Beer!
Tolar, Texas just came off a very long dry spell in February, when voters approved the sale of off-premises beer and wine for the first time since the 1920s.
By a 91-58 vote, local voters made history on February 7 when they approved the sale of beer and wine in the city. Tolar had a 41 percent turnout for the referendum: 149 of 363 registered voters went to the polls.
Kay Marcum Pollock, who initiated the petition that led to the referendum, said, "I am very happy it passed. I think it's wonderful and a good beginning for change."
Billie Tramel, who, along with her husband Don, opposed the sale of alcohol in Tolar, said, "We weren't surprised the election went the way it did. But we were disappointed. We thought a lot more people would come out to vote against it. I guess they forgot or didn't care." Tramel said she believes even if the vote to sell beer and wine had failed, it would have come up again and probably would have passed eventually.
The vote attracted a response from former Tolar Mayor Gayle Meyer Gold, who several years ago failed in an attempt to get a petition passed calling for a referendum on the issue. "It's a good opportunity for Tolar to get ahead and earn new income. I think David's Super Market will come to Tolar and the revenues raised will help the city and won't be detrimental to the city," said Gold.
On April 12, Meyer's Kwik Stop in Tolar added another reason--besides gas, coffee, and great cheeseburgers--to shop at the city's only convenience store: alcoholic beverages.
Kwik Stop owner Jay Meyer admitted, "I didn't think allowing the sale of beer and wine would pass, and then I didn't know if I wanted to sell it." Meyer said the reality that if he didn't sell alcohol, someone else would, helped him make up his mind. At least two retailers have already shown interest in opening stores in Tolar. (As for a major grocery store coming to town, David's, an area supermarket chain, declined to comment.)
Like Moses hitting a rock and water pouring forth, the flow of beer hasn't let up since Meyer began selling it.
Debra Nichols has worked at the store for about eight years. She's sold a lot of fast food, cigarettes, and lotto tickets, but she says none of that compares to the first carton of beer she sold. "We didn't sell a lot of beer the first day, but I'll always remember the 12-pack of Budweiser I sold to a lady from Tolar," she said.
Some old-timers believe the last time alcohol was legally sold in Tolar was in the 1920s. There were also several saloons in town in the late nineteenth century. Those who opposed the sale of alcohol in Tolar predicted it would lead to an increase in crime and a decrease in the town's small-town values.
Customers entering the Kwik Stop seem either surprised or happy as they look to the back of the store and see the vibrant display of beer company neon signs. Some ask, "What's different here?"
It doesn't take them long to see the ice box filled with case after case of domestic beer, wine coolers, and a number of exotic beers. Jose Rangel, a Mexican national and admitted long-time Kwik Stop customer, walked up to the counter with a 12-pack of Bud Light. "I didn't know you were selling beer," said Rangel with gusto, "but I think it's muy bueno!"
Nichols says when customers discover the store is carrying beer, they shout, "Yeah, now we don't have to go all the way to Granbury."
Investment Pays Off
Meyer says getting into the beer business wasn't cheap. "Besides the cost of installing the refrigerator, it took about $15,000 inventory to get started," he said. According to one of Meyer's suppliers, the state requires that all alcohol be paid for before the product is delivered.
Kwik Stop cashier Carol Cozad says a recent April weekend was very busy. "I believe about 100 percent of our customers on Friday and Saturday nights came in to buy beer," said Cozad. "During last week about half of the customers came in to buy beer," she smiled.
The sale of beer doesn't seem to adversely affect the sale of other items. "They buy chips and bread and other groceries along with the beer. I think they even buy more of those items than they did before we began selling beer," said Nichols.
Nichols said the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has already come by to make sure employees are asking for identification before selling alcohol. "We ask for identification from anyone who looks 36 years old or younger," said Nichols.
Cozad said most customers don't object to being asked for identification, but there are a few who do. "Some of our regular customers who are old enough to buy beer are insulted to be asked for identification, but that's the law," she said.
Stan Weinberg writes for The Hood County News, in which this article first appeared on April 21. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.