by WES FERGUSON
Raise a toast to the voters in Kyle.
A decisive 84 percent of the ballots cast in Saturday’s election favored an end to more than a century of prohibition, opening the door for bars, nightclubs and restaurants that had been scared off by restrictions on alcohol sales in the growing suburb.
Owners of several local restaurants, including the Motley Menagerie, Railroad Bar-B-Que and Koy Restaurant, say they plan to apply for beer-and-wine permits now that Kyle businesses are eligible for them. Other business people are discussing plans to open a tavern in town.
“The voters were really clear on what they wanted for Kyle,” Mayor Lucy Johnson said. “We’re excited to see what new developments come from it, and we hope this will spur more restaurants and entertainment options, which are very important to a lot of people.”
According to unofficial returns, 496 Kyle residents voted for the relaxed liquor laws, while 93 were opposed. About 60 percent of the ballots were cast during early voting.
The City Council canvassed the election returns Tuesday night, leaving neighbor city Buda as the only remaining “damp” area from Austin to San Antonio. Buda Mayor Sarah Mangham said she hopes to follow Kyle’s path when her constituents vote in a similar election to be held in November.
“I would love to see Buda be able to go fully wet,” she said. “You have more opportunities for commercial growth, not necessarily a beer or liquor store, but it opens us up to more restaurants whose sales are more than 50 percent alcohol.”
In addition to alcohol sales in restaurants, the Buda election will decide whether to allow liquor stores, which were already allowed in Kyle. Both cities approved beer and wine sales at grocery stores and gas stations several years ago, but before Saturday’s election, Kyle restaurants had to apply for a full liquor license from the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, rather than the much cheaper beer-and-wine permit.
John Hatch of Texas Petition Strategies, which coordinated the signature-gathering effort to place the vote on the ballot, said Kyle is part of a larger trend of communities deciding to cast off old prohibition laws around Texas.
“Over time people say why are we giving away tax revenue to our neighbor cities? We can change the law and put ourselves on an even playing field, and that’s what we saw in Kyle,” he said.
About 5 percent of eligible voters in Kyle turned out for the election.