Late night drinking hours extended by Port Lavaca voters

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Nov. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.
Updated Nov. 6, 2013 at 5:06 a.m.

The proposition to extend late-night drinking to 2 a.m. in Port Lavaca won in a landslide vote Tuesday.

"Residents were ready for change," said Port Lavaca City Manager Bob Turner. "This many haven't shown up for early voting since it's been at the courthouse - not even in general presidential elections."

For this proposition, 930 people voted early.

The opening of an Applebee's restaurant in the coastal town hinged on the election.

The restaurant will break ground the first quarter of 2014, said Applebee's official Liza Hogue.

"I'm so relieved and happy - it feels good that the city wants us there," she said. "We were about one-third the way in, so we'll rev it up and get back on track in no time."

Applebee's purchased land between Walgreens and O'Reilly Auto Parts on state Highway 35 after the City Council voted in March to approve the ordinance, which went into effect April 25. In July, a petition suspended the ordinance until residents could vote in November.

Applebee's officials said they would open a restaurant only if the hours were extended.

Turner said he supported extending the hours to attract national chain businesses.

The ordinance officially takes effect Nov. 12 after votes are canvassed, Turner said.

Until then, alcohol sales end at midnight during the week and 1 a.m. Saturdays.

Of the 12,500 registered voters in Calhoun County, about 6,500 are Port Lavaca residents who are eligible to vote in the citywide election, said Dora Garcia, Calhoun County elections administrator.

A total of 1,485 voted in the election.

Kevin LeVrier, pastor of Grace Speaks Ministries in Port Lavaca, opposed extended drinking hours but welcomed Applebee's.

"The people voted, and that's what's important," LeVrier said.

Many people who signed the petition that suspended the ordinance just wanted the people to have a say in the process, LeVrier said. They thought that more than six men on the City Council should make the decision.

"When Applebee's opens, I'll eat there," LeVrier said. "I wasn't against Applebee's - my objection was to extended drinking hours."

The 4,400-square-foot restaurant in Port Lavaca will feature a patio, seat 150 diners and supply more than 100 jobs, Hogue said.

Sales between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. account for 5 percent of the company's business, she said. Overall, alcohol accounts for less than 20 percent of Applebee's business and even less in smaller towns, Hogue said.



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