Liquor license dilemma

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Selma City Council torn



Email newsletter signup

The City of Selma has a dilemma of helping to create more business downtown and risk offending one of the oldest churches in town.

The problem is more than a matter of feet.

The City of Selma has an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol within 200 feet of a church or school. It was originally passed in 1970 and some council members want to amend it to help a business currently under construction. Others say they want consistency.

From back door to back door, Warren’s Restaurant on Broad St. &045; with plans to serve alcoholic beverages on its premises &045; is within 200 feet of First Baptist Church. The church’s front door is located around the corner on Lauderdale St., and the route from front door to front door exceeds the distance requirement of the ordinance.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn presented two copies of ordinances for council members to consider. The old ordinance contains &8220;vague language.&8221; Nunn warned that if the liquor license was granted, or not, and the loser goes to court, &8220;where there is ambiguous language the court tends to not rule with the drafter,&8221; he said.

Councilwoman Jean Martin expressed interest in helping the business, and injected humor to break the rising tension in Monday’s regular meeting over the issue.

Council President George Evans said, &8220;I have a real question in my mind. We have not had any (liquor license requests) to be this close to a church.&8221;

Councilman Johnnie Leashore, who also has a business in his Ward seeking a liquor license, showed his frustration. &8220;Some have been voted up, and some have been voted down. Some of the ones voted down have met the requirements.&8221;

Evans said every liquor license application denied by the City Council has been turned down for a reason.

Jackie Elaine Newberry-Agee, the owner of the Pit Stop, has been trying to get an off-premise license for months. Its application was effectively killed when the council vote ended in a 4-4 tie. Nunn, who said he contacted the Alabama League of Municipalities for advice, will have to tell the Pit Stop owner they have to reapply. A new application can be voted on because the full body of the council was not present for the vote.

Dr. Geraldine Allen said they shouldn’t be granting any leniency to anyone. &8220;We have used this vague ordinance in other cases. We need to be consistent. In being consistent, we should continue to use this one.&8221;