A Look Back When Nacogdoches Went Wet

Published: Oct. 25, 2006 at 9:48 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2006 at 12:39 PM CDT
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by Donna McCollum

The Flashback Cafe takes us back to the early 1970s. Owner Bill Sherrod remembers the decade fondly.

"You had Steve Fromholtz, Rusty Wier, and Michael Martin Murphy," said Sherrod in front of a wall in his restaurant, decorated with music memorabilia. For many listeners, it was the kind of music that cried out for a longneck beer. Sherrod recollected, "Everybody chipped in two or three dollars for whoever was going to make the run to the line for that weekend, to put your order in, and pray he didn't get picked up in Lufkin."

Those who imbibed were growing weary of the inconvenience. In 1971, the wet/dry issue headed to the polls. Sherrod recalled, "Here we were in the heat of the battle. Battle lines were drawn."

By a margin of fewer than 100 votes, alcohol sales became legal in portions of Nacogdoches County. And, contrary to popular belief, few college students voted in the summer election. But the drys were determined. Sherrod said, "We all went to the polls again. There was a lot of bickering back and forth for what it had done to Nacogdoches and what it hadn't done, but when it boiled down to it the next year, one year after we had gone wet, so to speak, it won three to one overwhelmingly to keep alcohol."

Not all of Nacogdoches County is wet -- only Precinct 1, but not the precinct we know today. When county officials need to check for wet-dry boundaries, they pull out a yellowed map dating back to 1971. These are the precinct lines that need to be followed to this very day. Suddenly, alcohol sales created new responsibilities.

County Tax Assessor Janie Weatherly collects the alcohol permit fees and state sales tax. The annual return on each permit is hardly worth the trouble. Weatherly said, "On beer and your wine, you're talking about $32, and that's basically it." On liquor store permits, the county receives half, $250. Last year, alcohol permits contributed only about $10,000 to county coffers. That's it, since there is no county sales tax. But the state received over $24,000.

It's much different within the city where there is a sales tax. Deputy City Manager Victoria Lafollett-Koenig said, "Just mixed beverages sales for this past fiscal year alone were nearly $85.,000."

But the sale of alcohol does create policing issues. DWIs, brawls, and regulatory measures are at the hands of local law enforcement and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. TABC agent Ron Clinton said, "I would say that Nacogdoches County is probably below the average of alcohol-related incidents, as far as DWIs and fatalities go. It generates a lot of revenue and, if done properly, is safe."

Caught literally in the middle of a wet/dry issue are the package stores on the Nacogdoches- Angelina county line. Manager of Hill's, Trisha Tang said, "Of course, we are concerned because, if something goes wrong and Angelina goes wet, we may lose a lot of business." Up to 50%.

We'll know the outcome November 7th. Until then, voters can only speculate, just like they did 35 years ago.