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Rogersville officials fine-tune liquor regulations

Published: 11:53 AM, 12/07/2012 Last updated: 12:00 PM, 12/07/2012

Source: The Rogersville Review

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

ROGERSVILLE - Limiting the number of liquor stores to two and locating one on the east side of town and the other on the west side were two decisions Rogersville city officials made at a workshop session November 29.
    City voters approved two liquor referendums in the November general election.  Liquor by the drink was approved for Rogersville restaurants by a slim margin, 708 to 701 votes.  The establishment of the liquor “package” stores passed by a wider margin, with 707 votes for the proposal and 663 against the measure.
    During the workshop session, attended by some prospective store owners, the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen reviewed two necessary ordinances that will be considered for the first of three required readings at the December 11 meeting.
    City Attorney Bill Phillips, who prepared the ordinances for review, explained the BMA has virtually nothing to say regarding liquor by the drink, which is regulated by the state.  The liquor by the drink ordinance is only two pages long while the liquor store ordinance is 11 pages.
    “A lot of what is contained in there (the liquor store ordinance) is just a recitation of state law.  There are some items the board needs to have some input on, principally those are, number one,  the number of liquor stores and number two would be we do have the right to restrict the location of liquor stores,” the attorney explained.
    In addition to state regulations, local officials must issue a certificate of compliance that says the applicant complies with whatever legal requirements the city adopts.
    Phillips also said determining how the licenses are assigned is something city officials will have to resolve.    
    “We could say first come first serve, but I wouldn't want to stand in the doorway if you do that.  The second way is by a lottery.  The third way is by developing a list of criteria, some of which are already in the state law, and you could add other criteria that might be important,” Phillips explained.
    The attorney noted that even with the various standards the city could still end up with more applicants that meet the standards than stores allowed.
    “If you have two liquor stores but there are six applicants that are all graded the same one of the possibilities is throw all the names in a hat and draw them out,” the attorney said.  
    Another possibility, according to the attorney, would be to “throw it open and say you can have as many liquor stores as you have qualified applicants.”
    “You can develop a list of qualifications including experience, financial capability, they have selected a location the town has deemed appropriate, those kinds of things,” the attorney added.
    The BMA first turned its attention to setting a limit on the number of stores, with the group agreeing to keep the number at two.
    City Recorder Bill Lyons added that the competition level would probably limit the number of stores, even if the board approved more than just two.
    “If we said you can have all you want you'd be down to two in no time,” Lyons explained.
    As for determining locations, the attorney said the stores can be located in any area zoned a B-1 business district or above, with restrictions also requiring the store to be 250 feet or more from the nearest hospital, school, church or public park.
    “One thing you might want to think about is separating them (stores) geographically,” Phillips said.  “My suggestion would be, whatever number you come up with, have an equal number east of Depot  Street and west of Depot Street. That way you can separate them out.”
    Ultimately BMA members also agreed to use the Depot Street concept.
    The board also agreed to reduce the square footage required for a store's minimum retail display space from the proposed 1,500 square feet down to 1,200 square feet.
    The proposed ordinances, including the list of standards to be used to judge applicants, and a third changing the town's Beer Board to the Alcoholic Beverage Board so that it will govern both beer and liquor, will be on the agenda for the December 11 meeting.  
    If approved at each regular meeting, the final approval of the ordinances would be at the February 12, 2013 BMA meeting, with applications considered sometime after that.

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