DeKalb County has a rule forbidding the storage and sale of beer within 2,000 feet of schools, churches and other places of public gathering.
Opponents of that regulation believe it is too restrictive and some have asked members of the county commission to consider changing it.
The commissioners are expected to have a workshop soon to discuss the pros and cons and then decide whether any change should be made. During their discussions, the commissioners may also review regulations of other towns and counties, including the City of Smithville, in helping them make their decision.. The minimum distance requirement in Smithville is 400 feet from the primary entrance of an establishment selling beer to the primary entrance of a place of public gathering,
The current controversy centers around Jewel Redmon's new store, known as Jewel's Market and Pizza at 600 North Congress Boulevard. Redmon wants to sell beer there but his store is apparently a little too close to the new First Assembly of God church, which was recently built just up the road on Highway 56 north.
The DeKalb County Beer Board is scheduled to meet next Thursday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m in the basement courtroom of the courthouse to consider Redmon's beer application, filed in the name of Viva Gail Johnson.
According to Redmon, the store building, which he recently purchased and refurbished, is seventy feet short of meeting the distance requirements, measuring "as the crow flies" but he said it is in compliance if the measurement is taken by way of the highway.
Redmon said he believes the property ought to be grand fathered since the store building had long been there before the church and because of the fact that the former owner of the store had a beer license. The business, however, had been closed for several months and the license of the former owner had since expired. Redmon claims the board should take into consideration that the store property was tied up in bank foreclosure proceedings involving the former owner and no one could have bought the store and sold beer during that time. Redmon believes he should not be penalized because of that situation.
Redmon further claims that he has improved the value of the property and that even his closest neighbors to the store location don't object to his selling beer
And as for the distance requirement, Redmon pointed out that another store across the road (Village Market) is licensed to sell beer and that business is even closer to the church than his establishment. Beer board members last month explained that Village Market is in the city and Smithville has different distance regulations than the county.
Board members last month voted to delay action on the application because the public notice was not properly advertised and to ask county attorney Hilton Conger to render a legal opinion on this license application at the next meeting..
This latest controversy comes two years after another store lost its permit when the county beer board learned that the business did not meet the minimum distance requirement.
Here's how that story unfolded
The DeKalb County Beer Board, in July 2009, voted to deny an application for an off premises permit to the owner of D & D Market at 7166 Short Mountain Highway, because the store is only 840 feet from the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church.
The problem for the beer board was that in November 2008, it granted an off premises permit to the owner of Nicole's Market at 7024 Short Mountain Highway, which is only 1,447 feet from the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church.
Members of the beer board said they were unaware that Nicole's Market did not meet the distance requirement when they approved the application, assuming that the applicant understood the rules when he filed. No one from the community appeared before the beer board at the time to object and the board apparently made no attempt to verify the distance between the store and the church, until shortly after the controversy came to light.
So after denying D & D Market's application in July 2009, the board also voted to schedule a hearing to consider revoking the license of Nicole's Market.
County Attorney Hilton Conger took the position that the erroneous permit issued inadvertently by the beer board to Nicole's Market could legally be revoked without invalidating the county's distance requirement.
In October, 2009 the beer board , following a hearing, voted to revoke the off premises permit of Nicoles Market.
Members of the DeKalb County Beer Board are Harrell Tolbert, Frank Thomas, Dick Knowles, Jim Stagi, Mack Harney, Robert Rowe, and Edward Frazier.