So far, officials do not have a clear estimate of how much revenue the city of Statesboro could gain from allowing liquor stores, with comparisons literally all over the map.
Statesboro resident voters will decide, through a referendum on the Nov. 2 municipal ballot, whether to allow the city to license the stores.
During Tuesday afternoon's mayor and council work session, Zakiya Daniel, an intern to Statesboro City Manager Charles Penny, presented a chart comparing the alcohol license fee and excise tax revenues of Statesboro, latest population estimate 35,568, with those of 12 other Georgia cities with populations ranging from 18,860 to 56,515.
Eleven of those cities currently license liquor stores.
Statesboro already receives significant revenues, $902,800 in 2020, from a wholesale excise tax on alcoholic beverages and retail licenses for bars, pubs and restaurants that serve beer, wine and liquor drinks and stores that sell beer and wine. Only the sale of distilled liquors for off-premises consumption is currently prohibited here.
Some cities that already have liquor stores and very similar populations actually receive less revenue from these sources, such as Hinesville with 34,345 residents but $562,895 from excise tax and licensing.
Other comparison cities, such as Dalton with 33,921 people but $1,005,692 in relevant revenue, receive substantially more.
Douglasville, whose estimated population of 34,918 closely compares with Statesboro’s, has only a liquor store tax and has garnered $338,504 revenue from it in the current fiscal year, Daniel reported. But Douglasville has nothing similar to the original Georgia Southern University campus or Eagles football weekends.
City Attorney Cain Smith confirmed that Statesboro officials have no real estimate of revenue that could be gained from liquor stores.
“We would need to commission an outside study for that; that’s not something we could just figure out,” Smith said. “There are too many variables. We just don’t have that sort of polling and statistical expertise.”
‘County line’ factor
Daniel’s chart also showed a comparison of Bulloch County’s county-government alcohol excise tax and licensing revenues, $334,831 from the 2019-2020 fiscal year, with those of two neighboring counties, Candler County, with $102,427 (from 2018-2019), and Evans County, roughly $63,000 (2020-2021).
Candler County and the city of Metter allow liquor stores, and one has long been located strategically near the Bulloch County line. In Evans County, population 10,558, there are liquor stores in the city limits of Claxton and Hagan, but none so far in the rural area near the county line.
By population, Candler and Evans are each between one-seventh and one-eighth as large as Bulloch, currently estimated to have 84,340 residents. For comparison purposes, Daniel’s chart also included Pulaski County, which with 11,251 people is similar to Candler and Evans in population and allows liquor stores but has no “county line situation,” as Smith put it, of stores serving a larger neighboring county that does not allow liquor sales.
Pulaski County’s (fiscal year 2019-2020) alcohol licensing and excise tax revenues were reportedly about $26,000. That county, whose county seat is Hawkinsville, should not be confused with the town of Pulaski, which is near the Bulloch line in Candler County.
The Statesboro Herald has not independently verified these numbers or checked on alcohol-based city revenues in the listed counties.