The Whitesburg City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday to pass the second reading of new ordinance governing the retail sale of package liquor and beer in the city limits.
After reading a summary of the ordinance, Mayor James Wiley Craft told the council and audience that the city qualifies for two package liquor outlets and that three stores — Food City, Walmart and Rite-Aid — have expressed interest in obtaining a license to sell beer.
Craft told members of the council they were undertaking the task of giving the public what it had overwhelmingly voted for —a different franchise arrangement for alcohol sales within the city. Craft acknowledged that while some members of the council may or may not support the public’s decision they should still follow the will of the voting public regardless of their own views.
“It doesn’t matter,” Craft said, “because the people have spoken.”
Craft said the council may tweak the ordinance from time to time as specifi c issues arise, but that it would allow for retail sales of alcohol and would also lower the food-to-alcohol ratio for restaurants selling alcohol to 50/50 rather than the 70/30 ratio that was specified in a previous ordinance.
After Craft read the new ordinance, Councilman John Williams said he personally opposes alcohol sales and was torn between the will of the people and his own beliefs.
“The people I represent have voted overwhelmingly for alcohol sales,” said Williams. “Do I vote for their interest or my interest?”
“It’s a question of the majority interest or the minority interest,” replied Mayor Craft. “The institution of democracy is by the vote.”
Councilman James Bates made the motion to accept the second reading and Sheila Shortt seconded. Williams cast the lone no vote.
Craft said the ordinance will become law after it is published in The Mountain Eagle. The ordinance will go into effect August 29.
Craft said the city has been directed by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to distribute applications for alcohol licenses, including the two package stores. Craft said city ABC Administrator Eleanor Caudill will collect the applications and bundle them to be sent to the state ABC Board for review. He said the state board will conduct a background check on the applicants and return recommendations to the city as to whom the two package licenses should be awarded to.
In other business, the council voted to set the city’s 2012 tax rate on real and personal property at $.37 per $100. Craft said the rate is the same as it was last year and there has been no tax increase in Whitesburg.