Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TOP STORY >>Ward passes private-club ordinance at council

Leader staff writer

On the chance a private, alcohol-serving club wants to come to Ward, the Ward City Council approved an ordinance Monday night establishing the rules and regulations for the operation of private clubs within the city limits.

By law, only private clubs are able to serve alcohol in a dry area.

The idea for the ordinance came about after Winthrop Ray Knight, owner of Dude’s 38 Special on Hwy. 38, submitted an application to the Alcohol Beverage Commission this time last year.

Knight applied for an ABC license for the new business he wanted to open in Ward, a family-oriented, sit-down restaurant where patrons have the option of having an alcoholic beverage with their meals – much like Chili’s in Jacksonville.

ABC denied his application and Knight has the option to appeal. The city council has kept abreast of ABC’s appeal agenda ever since, and to date, Knight has not been on it. There is no definite date with ABC on how long one can wait to appeal a decision. Come Jan. 18, it will have been a year since Knight was denied his application.

City Attorney Clint McGue said he heard Knight was trying to get on the agenda.

According to newly passed Ordinance 0-2007-05, Ward determined the business of manufacturing, transporting, storing, handling, receiving, distributing, selling, serving or dispensing any controlled beverage within the city is a privilege – a privilege the city is imposing regulations, requirements, restrictions, fees and taxes on.

In defining a private club, the ordinance states, “The nonprofit corporation shall have been in existence for a period of one year before application for a permit.”

And when the application for a permit is made, “the nonprofit must have no less than 100 members and must own or lease the property that gives reasonable comfort and accommodation of its members and their families and guests.”

Aside from the state (ABC) permit, private club owners must also have a permit issued by the city, which must be renewed each year. Within six months of the city issuing a permit, the holder of the permit must open for business and begin dispensing the products authorized by the permit.

Failure to do so results in an automatic forfeiture and cancellation of the permit.

The ordinance places restrictions on where the establishment can be – not within 100 feet of a single-family home, not within 100 yards of an alcoholic treatment center, and not within 1,000 feet of a church, school or public use area. The location must also be zoned retail commercial, either commercially C-1 (town-centered commercial) or C-2 (highway commercial) zoned areas.

In other business, the city council gave City Engineer Tim Lemons the go-ahead to begin the paperwork, permits and design needed to install a new, one-million-gallon water tower for the city’s Stagecoach water system.

Considered stage one of the project, the initial paperwork and permits would cost the city $240,000, money the city can borrow interest- and principal-free for the first three years, Lemons said.

That loan would be part of the total loan of about $2.7 million needed for the entire project.

The new water tank, which takes about 15 months to construct, is expected to be online in September of 2009.

The council unanimously approved to terminate the idea of holding a special census after learning it would cost $85,141, with $66,347 paid by the city in advance before any work is started.