Commonwealth Journal

November 6, 2013

Burnside makes strides toward package liquor sales

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Burnside — Burnside took its first legislative step toward becoming fully “wet” on Monday —  and decided to keep the drinks flowing a little longer as well.

The Burnside City Council held the first reading of Ordinance 412.0, which sets forth the guidelines for the city’s new abilities to sell alcohol by the package following last month’s option election.

There will be a tweak by the time the ordinance is actually passed at the next meeting, however. The ordinance as introduced kept in place the city’s current closing time for restaurants serving alcohol — midnight.

A group of restaurant owners, spoken for at the meeting by Sully’s owner Bob Leidelmeijer, came to the meeting with a petition signed with four names — Leidelmeijer’s, Tino Martinez of El Taxco, Eddie Ford of the End Zone, and J.D. Hamilton of Lee’s Ford Marina/The Harbor Restaurant.

The petition stated that the restaurateurs sought to extend operating hours to 1 a.m. in Burnside.

It was a year ago that Burnside bumped up the hours that alcohol could be sold from 11:30 p.m. until midnight, to be competitive with Somerset. The larger city had recently gone “wet” and set their ordinance to allow alcohol sales until midnight.

However, Leidelmeijer referenced the City of Danville’s alcohol ordinance, saying that Somerset copied it almost directly — except for Danville’s 1 a.m. hours, which he sought as justification for Burnside to raise theirs by an hour to allow for more flexible business.

“The issue is ballgames ... the SEC Tournament, Super Bowls,” said Leidelmeijer. “Music doesn’t play past 10 p.m., particularly (bands playing) outside. ... We’ve had it in the past, at 12 p.m., we were calling the mayor to ask if (hours could be extended) during the SEC Tournament. It went into overtime, we had to call the mayor and he was in bed, and he had to call the council members, and call all the restaurants throughout Burnside to say, ‘We’ve decided to extend (hours) because of ballgames.’

“In the summertime, we have the tourists that come down here. When it gets dark about 9 p.m., 10 p.m., they come off the lake and they want to grab a quick bite to eat or maybe a drink before they got to their hotel rooms,” he continued. “We used to shut down at 11 p.m.”

The council did not take a formal vote on the matter, but those present (councilor Joyce Gregory was absent from the meeting) indicated consent to change the new alcohol ordinance to allow alcohol to be served until 1 a.m.

Burnside Police Chief Craig Whitaker expressed some reservations, asking the council to consider that his police force only has four officers; longer hours for alcohol-serving establishments would mean extra work for police.

 Additionally, as the town’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) administrator, Whitaker pointed out that state statutes may have some rules in place about what stores and businesses can and can’t have as their hours in a fourth-class city, so Burnside Mayor Ron Jones agreed to do some research into the matter before clearing every such establishment in Burnside to be able to stay open until 1 a.m.

As it was a first reading, no vote was taken on the new ABC ordinance.

Some key points from the ordinance include:

• License fees set, generally ranging between $200 and $2,000 for different types of licenses. Special temporary licenses per event are acquired for $136.50 while wholesalers and rectifiers are at $3,000. A retail malt beverage package licenses — that is, selling beer in groceries or convenience stores — is $200, while retail drink licenses (including restaurants)  range from $300 to $2,000, depending on the type. Retail package licenses for quota liquor package stores are $840, and a special Sunday sales license is $300.

• The city’s Regulatory License fee on the gross receipts of the sale of alcoholic beverages is set at 6 percent when sold by the drink, five percent of retail distilled spirits and wine by the package, and 4 percent of malt beverage and beer package sales.

• Penalties are set for failure to pay the above licensing and regulatory fees, as well as an appeals process.

• Happy hours are not allowed before 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, or after 9 p.m. until closing. No licensee is allowed to permit drinking contests, all-you-can-drink specials, or free drinks.

• Nudity and adult entertainment — including wet t-shirt contests, lingerie fashion shows, mud or Jell-O wrestling, or dancing for compensation.

• Drive-thru outlets are prohibited.

• Signs to serve as notice to prohibit underage drinking are required and must be in an easily-seen prominent place.

• No alcohol licensee can hire anyone convicted of a felony in the last two years, under the age of 21 (unless in a capacity that doesn’t involve the sale of alcohol), has been twice convicted of any offense directly or indirectly attributable to alcohol in the last two years, or has had any alcohol license revoked in the last two years.

The number of quota licenses for those businesses — bars and liquor stores — to which they apply is still being determined by the state ABC department.

“The whole intent is to get enough revenue for Burnside that we can pay our bills and we can provide better services ... for people without having to increase taxes,” said Jones. “Nobody wants to do that.”

In other Burnside City Council activity:

• Jones presented citizen Chrystal Wilson with the ceremonial “key to the city” for her efforts in helping plan and make possible civic events, most notably the recent Point Isabel festival.