Church Hill ordinance regulating liquor fails

Jeff Bobo • Feb 21, 2013 at 12:05 PM

CHURCH HILL — Their intentions may have been noble, but two Church Hill aldermen who shot down the city’s proposed liquor-by-the-drink regulating ordinance Tuesday only succeeded in costing the city any control over who gets permits.

Church Hill residents approved a referendum for liquor by the drink (LBD) in the Nov. 6, 2012, election by a vote of 1,348-1,113.

Last month, the BMA voted 5-2 in favor of the first of two required readings of its LBD regulating ordinance. In Tennessee, liquor-by-the-drink sales are regulated by the state and there is very little local option.

Among the local options included in the proposed ordinance are a $300 LBD application fee to go to Church Hill as well as an annual LBD permit fee.

The ordinance would also authorize the mayor to submit a certificate of good moral character to the state before a LBD permit could be issued. In essence, the mayor would give the state a recommendation for or against an LBD applicant before the state approves the permit.

On Tuesday, there were two aldermen absent: Tom Kern and Mark Drinnon.

Aldermen James Grigsby and B.D. Cradic, who voted against the ordinance last month, cast no votes again Tuesday, and the second reading of the ordinance failed by a vote of 3-2.

Ordinances require a majority of the full board, or a minimum of four votes, to be approved.

Grigsby and Cradic are very open about their Christian beliefs and have both stated publicly they oppose alcohol use of any kind.

“There was eleven hundred and something votes against it, plus thirteen something voted for it,” Cradic said at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. “I’d just like to recognize the eleven hundred and something who voted against it.”

City Attorney Chris Raines told the BMA Tuesday the defeat of the city’s LBD regulating ordinance will not stop LBD permits from being issued in Church Hill.

“The voters passed liquor by the drink,” Raines said. “There must be liquor by the drink in the city of Church Hill.”

Raines added, “This ordinance allows us to have some minimal regulation in the administering of the law. Voting no does not prevent the issuance of permits. We just don’t have any control over it. We receive no fees for the licenses and are still required to issue the permits to (eligible applicants).”

Mayor Dennis Deal said the ordinance was intended to protect the citizens of Church Hill.

“Due to the circumstances we didn’t have a full board tonight, so we’ll let the state take control out of our hands,” Deal added.

Raines told the five board members present Tuesday that LBD applications can now be made to the state, the mayor is not authorized to do any review of that application, and the city has no input into whether or not that entity is granted a license.

“People have to vote their conscience, and so be it,” Deal said. “What worries me is we now have no control over this. ... Now they can move close to churches, close to a school ... but now we can’t do anything.”

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Grigsby told the board he was asked about his feelings on LBD during his campaign for election last year.

“I told them how I feel, and I told them I’m not going to change to get your vote,” Grigsby added. “My son (CHPD Detective Kevin Grigsby) puts his life on the line every day to protect our city. I can’t support something that endangers his life. I voted the way I was raised, and I’m Christian.”

Alderman Linda Miller said voting in favor of regulating liquor by the drink doesn’t make her less of a Christian.

Cradic and Grigsby also voted down the second reading of an ordinance that would eliminate Church Hill’s beer ban on Sundays.

The intent of the ordinance was to align Church Hill’s beer sales with state LBD regulations. It would allow packaged beer to be sold in on Sundays as well.

Despite the ordinance failing, Raines said he doesn’t believe Church Hill can prevent LBD restaurants from serving beer on Sundays.

That ordinance was defeated by a vote of 3-2 as well.

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