The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen discussed an ordinance regulating retail liquor stores in the city at last week’s meeting of the city council.
City attorney Vester Parsley recommended that city officials consult Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) before an ordinance is prepared for a vote. Parsley said that some issues need to be clarified to ensure that the ordinance meets state requirements.
"One of the reasons we're not getting in a big hurry is because we want to make sure that we get things right and we have it so that the Alcohol Beverage folks don't reject our Notice of Compliance,” he told the board. “We haven't been able to talk to them yet, but Hopefully, I'll have a rough draft (of the ordinance) at the next meeting, which would set out how we're going to have liquor stores established in the city.”
Though liquor licenses can only be issued by the state commission, the city has the authority to develop some local rules such as minimum distance requirements from churches, schools, and public meeting places, store size, number of stores allowed, and residency requirements.
The Aldermen seemed to agree that the minimum distance requirement should be the same as the city's beer ordinance requirement of 400 feet, and that applicants should be required to be a resident of the county for five years. A requirement of U.S. citizenship will likely be included as well.
Parsley said while the city can enact minimum square footage requirements, he would like to find out what the ABC rules are. "Some (ordinances in other cities) don't have a square footage requirement, while others do. Mount Juliet has a 3,000 square foot requirement. We felt like 1,500 square feet was adequate. I don't see anything in the statute that is required by the state for the size, but we want a clarification on that because sometimes these regulatory boards approve things that are not actually in the statute," Parsley said.
Some of the aldermen were also curious about the ABC’s minimum inventory requirements as well.
While aldermen Josh Miller and Shawn Jacobs voiced the opinion that limits should be set on the number of stores allowed, the remainder of the board, which includes Gayla Hendrix, Jason Murphy and Danny Washer, said they felt that the market should be allowed to decide that issue.
"One thing that was said in the workshop (held the previous month) was that it would work itself out. I’ve thought a lot about that, and it might and it might not. Of course, I've got my opinion and you have yours. But I would love to see a limit. I know I'm going to be in the minority, and that's fine, but that’s the way I feel," Miller shared.
"Like Josh said, I believe we are in the minority, but I do agree, and would personally like to see a limit,” Jacobs said. “We don't limit other businesses, but this is a unique business. It has a lot of restrictions already imposed by the state, and there is a reason those restrictions are there, because of the uniqueness of this kind of business. It's just like driving. It's not a right, it's a privilege. I think that we should be very circumspect in the way we handle this, and I do applaud you guys because I know you're trying to do that.”
"In most places that have restrictions it puts a big burden on them to make sure their application process is not flawed by some sort of favoritism given to one person over another,” Parsley replied. “Mount Juliet does on a first person filed who is in compliance gets it. We don't know how many people are going to apply, because it is going to be an expensive proposition.”
"I would certainly agree that it should be first come, first served. I think that's the only way to do it if you're in compliance. That is the way to handle it," said Jacobs.
Parsley said he plans to get together with Mayor Jimmy Poss and City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson to discuss the matter with ABC officials soon, and that he expects to have a proposed ordinance ready for the Aldermen for the February meeting of the council.