City May Consider Sunday Beer Sales and On Premises Permits for Restaurants

December 4, 2012
Dwayne Page
Danny Washer

The City of Smithville does not allow stores with off premises permits to sell packaged beer on Sundays and the city prohibits on-premises permits, which keeps restaurants from being licensed to serve beer with meals in their establishments.

At least one alderman wants that changed.

In an interview with WJLE Tuesday, Alderman Danny Washer said he plans to seek a change in the city's current beer ordinance. "Nobody is pushing me to do it. It's something I've been looking into for a while and I'd even thought about it before I got elected," said Alderman Washer.

The city's existing beer ordinance states that "It shall be unlawful for any beer permit holder to make or allow any sale of beer between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m. during any night of the week, at any time on Sunday, and at any time on Christmas Day".

Alderman Washer said he understands those who may oppose a change in the beer ordinance based on a religious point of view, but public convenience and the economic impact is something to consider as well. "We're losing a lot of income on Sunday. People who want to buy beer and go to the lake, to watch a ball game or what have you, they have to go to other counties to buy it (on Sunday). We're one of the few that don't sell it on Sunday. That money could stay here and benefit us," said Alderman Washer.

According to the 2012-13 budget, actual Wholesale Alcoholic Beverage Taxes collected by the city for the year ending June 30, 2011 came to $190,697. Alderman Washer said additional tax revenue generated by on-premises and Sunday beer sales would help keep city property tax rates down."We've got one of the lowest tax rates anywhere and we'd like to keep it that way. But everything (costs) goes up and to afford everything we're going to need for the City of Smithville we're going to need some new income otherwise the only way we're going to keep going like we are is to raise taxes sooner or later. This will help that. We also have a lot of people on fixed incomes that can't afford for their taxes to be raised. I think the opportunity is there to bring in more funds for Smithville that we're not getting," said Alderman Washer.

Earlier this year, city voters rejected proposals in public referendums to permit liquor sales by eligible businesses and restaurants. But unlike those issues, changing the beer ordinance to allow Sunday sales and on premises permits for restaurants does not require a public referendum. The ordinance can be amended on a majority vote of the Board of Aldermen, on a first reading, public hearing, and then a second reading.

City officials plan to consult with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) for advice on how any proposed change in the beer ordinance should be handled.

This is not the first time an effort has been made to change the restrictions regarding Sunday beer sales, according to Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson. "Back in January, 2008 the Smithville Beer Board voted to recommend Sunday and Christmas Day beer sales to the city council. The aldermen at that time chose not to act on their recommendation. The estimated figure from the state at that time would have been an additional $50,000 in yearly tax revenue. That comes to $250,000 that the city could have collected since the Beer Board's recommendation to the council at that time through 2012," said Hendrixson. "Adding on-premise permits would likely increase that tax revenue depending on how many permit holders there are. Currently, restaurants with an on-premises permit can serve beer that is located outside of the city limits in DeKalb County. Alexandria is the only city in DeKalb that allows Sunday beer sales off-premise (packaged) at this time," according to Hendrixson. " Other surrounding cities allowing Sunday beer sales are Gordonsville, McMinnville, Baxter, Cookeville, Watertown, and Auburntown just to name a few. With locals and all the tourists that come to Center Hill lake each season the city is leaving tens of thousands of tax revenue dollars on the table each year that other surrounding cities are enjoying just by selling beer seven days a week rather than six days like Smithville does at this time. Smithville enjoys one the lowest property tax rates compared to other cities of this size and by finding other revenue sources to fund the city those property taxes will remain one of the lowest around," Hendrixson concluded.

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