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Friday, February 1, 2013

News to Know: Lake Wedowee & Randolph County Alcohol Sales

News to Know
 by Kelly Caldwell





On November 6, the people of Randolph County were asked whether or not they wanted to legalize the sale of alcohol in this county. There were intense debates for and against the issue in the weeks leading up to the election, but in the end the majority favored the legalized sale of alcohol.

After the dust settled on the issue, there were more questions than answers concerning alcohol sales in Randolph County.  Lake Wedowee Life magazine is a lifestyle publication and does not have a political agenda. However, we do feel this is a subject important to our readers and the community. This is the first in a series of articles pertaining to the impact of alcohol sales on the Lake Wedowee community.
In the three months since Randolph County voted to legalize the sale of alcohol, the leaders of the county and the Town of Wedowee have been diligently working on getting the procedures in place.

"It has been more complicated than I expected," Wedowee Mayor Tim Coe said. "But, we have continued working on this issue since the results of the election were known."
In the short time, Wedowee has passed its local ordinance which will govern the sale of alcohol within the town limits and Wedowee's police jurisdiction.

"We had the option to decide if we were going to govern the jurisdiction as well," Coe said. "And, we figured we will get the police calls anyway, so we wanted the revenue from it."

The main difference from state law and the local ordinance for the Town of Wedowee is the proximity to churches, schools and childcare facilities.

"State law does not have distances from buildings, but it's something our council felt strongly about." Coe said.

An establishment that wishes to sell alcohol in the town of Wedowee must be 250 feet from the church, school or childcare facility as measured from exterior wall to exterior wall. However, all places of worship are not included. The definition of a church by the ordinance is a free-standing structure not rented or leased. In other words, the 250 foot rule does not apply to churches renting space in a commercial location.

The Town of Wedowee has a fee structure in place for 14 different types of licenses governing the sale of alcohol. For 10 of those licenses the state has limits as to what can be charged in addition to the state fee.

Businesses not in the town limits or jurisdiction of a municipality are licensed by the Randolph County Commission. The county commission follows state law and only had to pass a fee structure prior to issuing licenses.

SO WHAT TYPES OF ALCOHOL WILL BE FOR SALE?
Depending on the license, a business may sell beer, wine or liquor to the public either to be consumed at the location or off site. The only type of alcohol that will not be available for purchase in Randolph County is draft beer.
"It's my understanding that would require a separate local legislative act to be able to serve or sell draft beer," Coe said.

Lakeside Marina, north of Wedowee, could be one of the first in the county to sell alcohol, but owner John Tinney is quick to say it will not harm the atmosphere of his establishment.

"We are wanting to sell beer and wine for off premise consumption," he said. "We are offering as a convenience to our customers that wish to purchase it, but at the same time, we do not want to be 'in your face' with it to those customers that do not.

Beer and wine will be available for purchase in the convenience store side of Lakeside but it will not be available for purchase with a meal in the restaurant.
"We pride ourselves on having the 'Cracker Barrel' family atmosphere in our restaurant and we want to maintain that," Tinney said.

Tinney, along with three other businesses in the county, is on the agenda for the January 28 Randolph County Commissioners meeting. If approved at that meeting, Tinney believes Lakeside could have alcohol for sale by February 1.

What's THE difference between a Liquor Store and a Package Store?
A Liquor Store is a state run by the ABC Board and does not sell beer. A Package Store is a privately run retail business that can sell liquor or beer for off-site consumption.
According to Coe, the Town of Wedowee does have interest in a state-run store being located within its borders.

"The director of the ABC Board came to our meeting a few weeks ago and said there was interest in putting a state store in the county, however its location would require unanimous support by council."

WHEN CAN YOU
BUY ALCOHOL?
According to the Town of Wedowee ordinance there are certain hours of a day that alcohol sales are prohibited... But most of that time the majority of the population will be asleep. During the week, "Dry Hours" are 1 a.m. until 6 a.m. and the weekends are 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. on Saturday and 2 a.m. on Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday. That translates into no Sunday Sales of Alcohol in the Town of Wedowee.

WHAT ABOUT THE TAXES? 

Prior to the election, Randolph County received $30,627.49 per month in what was once known as TVA money for being a dry county. When the citizens voted to legalize the sale of alcohol, that guaranteed money went away.

"The TVA money stopped when the election results were certified on November 16," Cindy Arrington, county administrator for Randolph County, said.
Until alcohol sales begin, the county's general fund is losing money daily as are each of the municipalities.

"When this all started, we had a goal of February 1, (to begin alcohol sales)" Coe said. "But it was a lot more complicated than we first thought. So now, we are hopeful for March 1."

The process for the town has one more step than the county in that a prospective licensee has to advertise their intent in the local newspaper for two weeks prior to meeting with town council. To this point no formal applications have been made to the town.

"We have had some businesses express interest and we know that its coming," Coe said. "But we are in a wait and see mode at this point because there are so many unknowns."
When alcohol revenue begins coming in, both the town of Wedowee and the county have elected to put those funds into the general fund.

"There are a lot of people wanting their slice of the 'alcohol pie.' But, I don't want to make any promises until we know exactly what kind of revenue we can expect," Coe said. "We have been losing money for a while due to the economy and other factors and our reserves need to be replenished before we do anything else."

In the next issue, Lake Wedowee Life will explore the legal aspects of alcohol on Lake Wedowee.

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