Anna Council votes no on amending liquor ordinance for special use permits
The Anna City Council last week voted, for a third time, against taking action to amend a municipal liquor ordinance.
The proposed action could have led to the possible sale of beer and local wines at the Union County Fair.
County fair officials say the revenue generated by such sales would provide much-needed revenue.
The vote came at a regular meeting of the Anna City Council. The meeting was Tuesday evening, June 20, at Anna City Hall.
City hall was packed, and overflowing, for discussion regarding the proposal to amend the liquor ordinance.
The city hall meeting room was filled to capacity; people also stood in an entry way just outside the meeting room. An estimated 70 or 80 people were in attendance.
Discussion about amending the liquor ordinance was the sixth item on the agenda for the June 20 meeting.
The discussion was held as unfinished business. The council also had addressed the matter at its last regular meeting on June 6.
Discussion about the topic, and related issues, lasted for about an hour. Topics which were raised during the discussion included the actual proposal to amend the ordinance, the impact such a decision would have, the role the fair plays in the lives of young people, religion, and local business and the economy.
Mayor Steve Hartline, who voiced support for amending the ordinance, opened discussion about the proposed amendment about 45 minutes into the meeting.
Hartline said that he had met with fair board representatives to discuss their plans for offering beer and local wines.
“I personally went to see what the fair is offering,” the mayor said.
Fair officials have stated that the products would be offered in a strictly controlled environment. They also have stated that violations would not be tolerated.
The mayor also said that there was “a lot of misinformation” circulating about the matter, particularly on social media.
Hartline said that the issue before the city council was not about allowing the fair board to sell beer and wine. The issue, he said, was about the council taking action to amend the city’s liquor ordinance in relation to special use permits regarding the sale of alcohol.
Under current guidelines, such sales only are allowed in a limited area along Davie Street – with the issuing, by the city, of a special use permit.
The city council decides whether or not to approve special use permit applications. If the option were to be made available, the fair board also would have to go through the permit application process.
The mayor also noted that under current city regulations, alcohol is not allowed at the Anna City Park. The county fair is held at the park. The fair traditionally takes place each August.
After Hartline made his opening comments, he opened the discussion for public comments. Many of those in attendance offered their thoughts about the proposal.
Linda LaFoon addressed concerns related to agribusiness and the economy. LaFoon said she and her husband own a winery and grow grapes.
LaFoon said the matter was one of “dollars and sense” and the need to offer a boost to the fair. LaFoon said she has worked at other events where wine is available and had not seen any problems arise.
“If you have a religious objection, you don’t have to participate,” she added. The comment was met with applause from some of those in attendance.
Local business person Steve Hornbeak addressed concerns about the costs of conducting events which involve the sale of beer and wine. Acquiring permits and insurance coverage for such events are expensive, he noted.
He also commented about the separate roles played by the government and the church – his comments were met by applause.
Beverly Tweedy, another local business person, asked for a show of hands to indicate how many of those at the meeting go to the Union County Fair. Most of those in the room raised their hands.
Community member Billie Henderson stated that “this is not a religious issue. This is a business issue.” She urged action to support the fair.
Community member Louise Williams reiterated her opposition to action which could lead to the sale of beer and wine at the fair. Williams had voiced concerns about the matter at a previous council meeting.
“It sets a bad example for the children,” Williams said. She added that she would not attend the fair if beer and wine were to become available. Her comment was met with applause.
Anna city attorney John Foley said that he thought it was “unfair to suggest that the fair board is trying to create immorality. Their desire is to continue the fair,” he said. His comment was met with applause.
Several of those who spoke at the meeting noted the important role the fair plays in the lives of the community’s young people. One speaker declared that “the children are the issue,” which was met with applause.
The mayor was asked whether future city councils could take action if the matter were to be brought up again for discussion. The mayor said that future councils could act on the matter.
A member of the audience asked whether the city had considered putting the issue on the ballot for the entire county.
The mayor said that such a proposal has not been considered. He said the matter was a city issue.
“Our issue is liquor control in the City of Anna. This is not a county issue,” the mayor said.
After hearing comments from the audience, the mayor sought input from city council members regarding the matter.
City council member David Isom voiced emphatic opposition to the proposal. His statement was met with applause.
Council member Al Kamp said the matter was not about religion. Kamp said his focus was on the children.
“They’re my number one priority. To me, the fair is a family oriented thing,” he said. Applause followed his comment.
Council member Brandon Bierstedt said he supported at least giving the fair a chance to try to offer beer and local wines. Bierstedt noted that the city allows video gaming, a form of gambling, which, he suggested, is worse, in some ways, than alcohol.
Council member Martha Ann Webb said that she appreciated all of those who came to the meeting. Webb said that she thought the fair should be kept as a family event. “Go, Martha” a woman in the audience stated.
At that point, nearly an hour and 40 minutes into the meeting, the mayor called for action on the matter.
Council member Bierstedt made a motion to amend the city’s special events liquor license to allow for a special events license to be used at a different location, pending the council’s approval.
A roll call vote followed the motion. Council members Isom, Kamp and Webb voted no. Council member Bierstedt and Mayor Hartline voted yes. The failure of the motion to pass was greeted with more applause by some of those in attendance.
“As far as special events, the ordinance stays the way it is,” the mayor said.
After the vote, many of those in attendance left the meeting. A number of angry and frustrated comments were heard as people left the meeting.