Sparta residents asked to re-evaluate dry city status

Local businesses want certain stores to sell beer

Beer could soon be back on the shelves of some stores in Sparta as an upcoming referendum asks residents to re-evaluate its status as a dry city.

For about five decades, the city of Sparta has been dry, which means certain places like gas stations and grocery stores have not been able to sell alcoholic beverages. However, a group of business owners are asking residents to change that.

A long-time liquor store owner outside of the city worries what the change would mean for his business.

“We started a liquor store in ’59 and it’s been a good, clean business,” said Eddie Habhegger, owner of Fast Eddie’s.

Habhegger remembers when the first referendum pushed the selling of alcohol outside city limits.

“I had a store downtown for four years and then there was a referendum,” said Habhegger. “We had to close up and we moved out here in ’63 and we’ve been here ever since.”

Fast Eddie’s is family-owned and operated in the township of Sparta.

“My daughter, my son, my granddaughter, we got the whole family involved in it,” said Habhegger.

With the newly proposed referendum to allow certain stores to sell beer within city limits, Habhegger is concerned about the future of his family business, but this is not the first time.

“The first referendum to bring it back began in 2005 and it will be the fifth time going through,” said Sparta City Administrator Todd Fahning.

However, it’s the first time local businesses are asking to sell only beer, not liquor. Plus, Fahning said it would help bring in more tax dollars.

“We have a large Kwik Trip that’s going to be constructing just outside the city limits,” said Fahning.

If the referendum passes, it would annex into the city.

“That is about a $4 million taxbase that would be brought into the city and any of the other stores would be welcome to annex into the city if they sell beer,” said Fahning.

But Habhegger isn’t sold on the idea because it could reduce the amount of familiar faces walking through the door every day.

“I work seven days a week because I love being around people,” said Habhegger.

If the referendum passes, Fahning said it would take about 60 days before grocery stores or convenience stores would be able to sell beer.

Sparta residents will vote on the referendum April 1.