Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sunday alcohol sales get first-reading approval

By Meghan Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Woodford County Fiscal Court voted 6-2 in favor Tuesday night on first reading of the ordinance to allow Sunday alcohol sales in Midway and the rest of Woodford County outside Versailles.

Voting for the ordinance were Magistrates Larry Craig of Midway, Ellen Gormley, Geoff Reid, Gerald Dotson, Jim Staples and Steve Barnett, who was absent at the last meeting. Charles “Bones” Webber and Jackie Brown voted no, as they did at the last meeting on Craig’s motion to draft the ordinance.

The ordinance would allow alcohol sales from 1 to 10 p.m. on Sundays and would include sales of packaged alcohol in stores as well as restaurants. Midway restaurants are the leading proponents of the change.

The City Council in Versailles, where three restaurants asked for the change, turned down Sunday sales on a tie vote a few weeks ago. Versailles makes some of its own alcohol rules but Midway’s are governed by Fiscal Court. Midway’s population of 1,620 makes it a fifth-class city, which prohibits its city council from making its own decision on the issue.

“Fiscal Court wanted Versailles to take the first step, but they rejected it,” said Bill Van Den Dool, owner of The Black Tulip, one of five Midway restaurants that have asked for Sunday sales, primarily saying that it would boost tourist business.

“I feel good about it,” Van Den Dool said in an interview. “I believe it’s going to happen and that is going to put the pressure on Versailles.”

Midway restaurants say they need Sunday sales to compete with restaurants in Lexington and Frankfort, especially with the World Equestrian Games coming in 2010. The council in Georgetown, the same distance from Midway as the other two cities, passed a Sunday-sales ordinance Monday night.

According to the Georgetown News-Graphic, the Georgetown ordinance will allow Sunday sales only by the drink. Several council members said approving Sunday sales was not an easy decision, but necessary considering the economic downturn and a $1 million city budget shortfall. It has been estimated that Sunday sales will generate $15,000 in added yearly revenue for the city.

The Woodford County ordinance is also not without opponents, though none spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. Craig said in an earlier interview that regardless of his personal opinion, his job is to represent the people in Midway and this is what they asked him to do. “If we’re going to do it, let’s start now,” he said. “If we’re going to attract people to these restaurants, we’ve got to be competitive with our surrounding cities.”

Brown, who lives on McCowan's Ferry Road between Versailles and Mortonsville, said in an earlier interview, “I have a strong belief that we don’t need it. We don’t need to be selling on Sundays. It’s sabbath day, we already do it six days a week.”

In October, Midway restaurants Bistro La Belle, The Black Tulip, Holly Hill Inn, Darlin’ Jeans and Quirk gave Fiscal Court a petition to allow Sunday sales. The Heirloom restaurant has since joined the bandwagon.

Craig told The Woodford Sun that the ordinance should also allow retail sales, to avoid what he called discrimination between retailers and restaurants. He told the newspaper that if restaurant sales were approved, retailers would ask for the privilege. "Do it all at once, be done with it," he said. "Or turn it down, all at once, and be done with it." The license fee would be $300 for restaurants and $125 for package stores.

Mark Wombles, owner of Heirloom, said in an interview that alcohol sales on Sunday coincide with alcohol sales in general. “They should legalize it or take it away completely,” he said.

To those who oppose the ordinance for religious reasons, Van Den Dool said, “I respect everyone’s opinion, but they can’t push those beliefs on other people. . . . It gives us the opportunity to generate more revenue on Sundays.”

UPDATE, March 25: A second reading was expected to come March 24. Instead, magistrates heard first reading of a revised ordinance, removing fees for retailers, on advice of state officials. A second reading is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14.

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