Are stores in the City of Smithville that are licensed to sell beer in compliance with the city's beer laws in regard to signage and inventory?
At least one city resident doesn't think so.
Former Alderman W.J. (Dub) White came before the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night during the regular monthly meeting asking the city to enforce its beer ordinance on these provisions.
White said there are six stores in the city which are in violation of the ordinance because beer advertisement signs inside the stores can be seen from outside the stores.
The city's beer ordinance states " It shall be unlawful for any beer permit holder to advertise within the business establishment in any manner visible from off the premises of said establishment the price or location of beer on the premises of the establishment".
City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. said he will have a definite answer by next month's meeting but is concerned that this provision in the beer ordinance may be unconstitutional, improperly restricting freedom of speech.
If the provision is constitutional, Parsley said the city could have reasonable regulations to enforce it. However, he is not yet convinced that any permit holder is clearly in violation. "One of our individuals (stores) probably has the most lit up building I have seen in some time here in town. (Discount Tobacco and Beer). If anyone is in violation, that one certainly is. The others, if you look real hard I agree that you can see them (beer advertisements) from the outside. There may be a way for them to correct that, maybe to put up some (window) tint but I could not see any sign that advertised the price of beer. I could see the fact that they had a sign in there that they sold beer. But even so it (beer ordinance) doesn't say you could revoke their license for doing that," he said.
Parsley suggested that the beer ordinance may need to be amended to address other provisions that are outdated or invalid. " Some of the provisions are currently invalid they way our laws are written. We've not ever let anybody advertise the sale of beer outside of their establishment although there is a statute which says they can. Tennessee has a statute TCA 57-5-301 which says that we cannot prohibit people who sell beer from advertising at least one sign outside of their business. They cannot advertise the type of beer but they can advertise beer," he said.
The law Parsley referred to states as follows :"No outdoor sign, advertisement or display that advertises beer may be erected or maintained on the property on which a retail beer establishment is located other than one (1) sign, advertisement or display which makes reference to the fact that the establishment sells beer but does not use brand names, pictures, numbers, prices or diagrams relating to beer."
White also questioned whether stores that sell beer in the city actually meet the $25,000 wholesale value grocery stock inventory requirement under the city beer ordinance. Parsley said the stores are responsible for furnishing the city a certified inventory each year. The city, however, never does its own investigation or inventory to make sure the stores are in compliance.
Under the city beer ordinance, "Before a beer permit is issued, the applicant must show proof of ownership of $25,000 (Wholesale Value) in grocery stock, excluding all tobacco products, gasoline, petroleum products, antifreeze, and beer. Further, should a beer permit be granted to an applicant, the beer permit holder must maintain at all times on the premises where beer is sold a minimum grocery stock of $25,000 (Wholesale Value), excluding all tobacco products, gasoline, petroleum products, antifreeze and beer. The holder of a beer permit must provide at least one inventory per year to the Smithville beer board, said inventory to be submitted no later than April 15 of each year. Moreover, the inventory submitted annually to the Smithville beer board by the permit holder shall be performed by a business entity whose principal or predominant business is that of conducting inventories. Further, the accuracy of said inventory shall be sworn to and affirmed before a Notary Public by the agent or employee of the business entity retained to conduct the inventory. Moreover, the Smithville beer board shall have the authority to request additional inventories during the year, and each holder of a beer permit shall be obligated to provide the Smithville beer board with any requested inventory."