The New York Times’ Houston bureau chief Manny Fernandez recently paid a visit to Gun Barrel City, recounting the small town’s squabble over liquor laws in the pages of the Gray Lady.
City council members hoped to lure an Applebee’s to the oddly-named town of 5,600 by extending the town’s drinking hours to 2 a.m. three days a week. Mayor Dennis R. Wood disagreed, believing that extending the drinking hours would lead to “moral decline” in the town, located some 55 miles southeast of Dallas.
“There’s no reason to drink between midnight and 2 a.m.,” Wood told the New York Times. “It just creates more problems than profits. When they leave they’re going to be a little more intoxicated than if they would have left at midnight.”
Fernandez unpacks the confusing liquor laws at work in Gun Barrel City that might make someone from Utah blush. “Stores in the town are allowed to sell beer, wine and liquor, but restaurants and bars can do so only with state-issued ‘private club’ permits,” Fernandez wrote.
After the city council passed the drinking ordinance 5 to 0, Wood vetoed it and worked to get it on the ballot. Voters weighed in favor of extending the town’s drinking hours in early November.
The story also attracted the notice of David Webb, a freelance journalist who lives on Cedar Creek Lake, near Gun Barrel City. “Sometimes news about a small town feud can travel an awfully long way,” Webb wrote. “The newspaper writer portrayed the liquor battle as one typical of small towns in Texas, a scenario that likely would amuse residents in big cities who are unfamiliar with such controversies.”
Webb was on the ground to collect reaction to the story from Gun Barrel City’s Mayor Pro Tem Curtis Webster, a proponent of extending the town’s drinking hours.
“I don’t know if it is good or bad for the city because I don’t know how many people here will read it,” Webster told Webb. “[The New York Times] must have been short on news. I guess if anything it will put Gun Barrel City on the map for people who have never heard of it.”
D Magazine editor Tim Rogers was more amused and gushed about the story on Frontburner. “There are so many delightful tidbits in this New York Times story,” he wrote. Of Wood’s distaste for late-night drinking, Rogers writes “I could spend the rest of the day listing those reasons. Then I could spend all day tomorrow listing the reasons for drinking between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.”
(Gun Barrel City’s motto is “We Shoot Straight With You” and the town logo is a thing of beauty. Roy Bragg dubbed the town’s name “flat-out bizarre” in his Monday story in the San Antonio Express-News about strangely named Texas towns.)