As the DeKalb County Beer Board voted Thursday night to issue permits to five businesses, one member spoke out against the county commission for the way they went about changing the minimum distance regulations in February.
Second district beer board member Frank Thomas said he wasn't pleased that the county commission voted to make the change on a night when two members of the commission, previously opposed to it, were absent. "The wool was pulled over our (beer board members) eyes by changing the distance from 2,000 to 800 feet. It was sneaked in on us," said Thomas.
Even though the issue was not on the agenda, the commissioners in February, by a vote of seven to five, adopted a motion to reduce the minimum distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 800 feet between stores seeking to sell beer and places of public gathering such as churches and schools.
Last December, some members of the commission tried to change the distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 400 feet but that proposal died on a seven to seven tie vote. All members were present that night but eight votes were needed for passage and County Mayor Mike Foster refused to break the tie.
"The commission voted on it and had a tie vote (in December)," said Thomas. "The county executive could have broke the vote (tie) either way but he wouldn't. He said he didn't want to make nobody mad either way. But he didn't give a damn who he made mad down here (beer board). But then it come up again (in February) when they (county commission) found out two of them wouldn't gonna be there at the meeting. One of them (commissioners) had to be out of town on a trip. The other was out of town on account of sickness,' said Thomas
The 2,000 foot distance regulation is the maximum allowed under state law and it had not been changed since the county adopted it in October 1939, until the meeting in February.
During Thursday night's meeting, the beer board voted to issue an on and off premises permit to Viva Gail Johnson at Jewel's Market and Pizza at 600 North Congress Boulevard; to Araceli Godinez Soto of Nicole's Market at 7221 Short Mountain Highway, Smithville; and to the North Alabama Bank and Bank of Lincoln County for Back 9, LLC doing business as Riverwatch at 167 Highland Trail, Sparta (DeKalb County)
The beer board also voted to issue an off premises permit to Jesus Villa at the Stop Market , LLC at 3794 Short Mountain Highway, Smithville; and to Debra Sacran of D & D Market at 7166 Short Mountain Highway, Smithville.
All applicants apparently meet all the requirements, including the new minimum distance regulations.
The vote was four to one to issue a permit to Jewels Market and Pizza, Nicole's Market, and D& D Market. Board member Frank Thomas asked for a roll call vote and he "passed" when his name was called. These three businesses had been unable to sell beer under the 2,000 foot rule.
The vote was five to nothing to issue permits to the Back 9, LLC, and the Stop Market. Thomas voted in favor apparently because those locations have had permits to sell beer in the past and now have new operators making application.
Meanwhile, two other businesses are seeking an on and off premises permit to sell beer, the Company Store near Cove Hollow and the Sharpe Lodge on the Cookeville Highway. The beer board Thursday night accepted the applications and will take a final vote on issuance of the permits at the next meeting in May. The Company Store already has an on premises permit, but is now seeking to sell beer for consumption off the premises as well.
In other business, the board accepted the resignation of long time member and chairman Mack Harney of the seventh district, who stepped down after last month's meeting. The board also named member Edward Frazier as the new Chairman and Robert Rowe as Vice Chairman.
Sixth district board member Harrell Tolbert last month announced his resignation from the board. Because of redistricting, Tolbert has been moved from the sixth district to the fifth district and can no longer serve the sixth district as a beer board member. The county will have to appoint a new member to succeed both Tolbert and Harney.