(WBIR-Pigeon Forge) Some big announcements have come out of Pigeon Forge the past two weeks. Some city leaders say a part of that success is thanks to a controversial ordinance.
It has been nearly a year since voters approved, for the second time, liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge. It passed in November 2012, but became the subject of a court battle over whether all the votes were valid. Voters approved it again in March 2013.
City Tax Clerk Mable Ellis told 10News the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission has issued 19 liquor licenses since liquor by the drink first passed.
Ken Maples, who was a chairman for Forging Ahead (a group in favor of liquor by the drink), said that number is about what they expected.
"We're pleased with that. We expect probably this time next year to be in the 20-25 range. So it's going to take awhile for this to really take effect," Maples said.
The Hard Rock Cafe is moving from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge in the late Spring. They were swayed by larger space with free parking, and the fact that Pigeon Forge now allows liquor by the drink sales.
Sevierville and Gatlinburg have allowed it for years.
"We felt like after a year of having liquor by the drink passed that folks would start looking at Pigeon Forge. Because liquor by the drink is only one of the reasons that they're looking at Pigeon Forge. It was the piece of the puzzle that was missing," Maples said.
New restaurant announcements in Pigeon Forge also include Paula Deen's Family Kitchen and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. The developments equal millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs.
"You see a lot of construction throughout town now, something you didn't see for a couple years. So that's exciting," Maples said.
Blair Briant is a managing partner at Timberwood Grill, located at The Island in Pigeon Forge. The restaurant opened in June 2013, and always has been able to serve mixed drinks.
"It's been great for the community. Sales have been great. It's helped out all across the board," Briant said.
Briant is also a part of Diverse Concepts, a professional restaurant management company. According to Briant, some of Diverse Concepts restaurants in Pigeon Forge have seen a 15%-20% increase in sales with liquor by the drink.
Those extra tax dollars help local schools.
However, many restaurants have chosen not to serve liquor.
Pigeon Forge is coming off of another record-breaking year with $937 million in gross receipts.