The city of Benham has voted to allow alcohol sold by the drink at historical sights, which means the Benham Schoolhouse Inn will be able to sell alcohol by the drink.
The special election held on Tuesday saw a total of 84 out of 411 registered voters taking part, with 74 voting to allow alcohol and 15 voting against. One absentee ballot was cast in favor of allowing alcohol.
According to Harlan County Clerk Donna Hoskins, the election ran smoothly.
“It was a very smooth election, no problems,” Hoskins said. “Not a great turnout like I hoped, but it was a good day.”
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley explained in an earlier report the election specifically impacts the Benham Schoolhouse Inn.
“It is strictly for qualified historic sights. To my understanding, the citizens that started this did so in hopes that it would give the Benham Inn another revenue option,” Mosley said.
During a meeting in June, the Harlan County Fiscal Court entered a lease agreement for the Benham Inn with Appalachian Hospitality Group on July 1 following a lengthy process to determine the fate of the county-owned facility.
Not all were happy with the agreement, with magistrates Bill More and Clark “Sparky” Middleton voting against the lease, but the majority of the court voted to approve.
After the meeting in June, Moore explained why he voted against the lease agreement.
“I was up front with Dan and David (Magistrate David Kennedy) and all of them in the beginning that I wasn’t going to spend any money, and I feel that we’ll be spending some money up there,” Moore said. “I wasn’t happy with some of the language in the lease. I’m not for taking any taxpayers money and spending it up there.”
Also after the June meeting, Kennedy explained the Benham Inn is an important attraction.
“I’ve always supported keeping that Inn open, I think it’s a vital piece of our tourism industry in Harlan County,” Kennedy said. “If you want tourists to come in here, they’ve got to have a place to stay…You have to crawl before you can walk. I think it’s on the verge of taking off as well as the tourism industry in Harlan County.”
The agreement with Appalachian Hospitality is a one year lease with an option to renew under the same terms for one additional year. The lease can be renegotiated at the end of the second year.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.