Bills would let Wetumpka vote on alcohol policies

Published 9:45am Monday, March 25, 2013

Two bills in the Legislature would let Wetumpka residents decide whether to relax alcohol restrictions in the city limits.
The two bills call for a special election in which Wetumpka residents would vote on whether to allow on-premises alcohol sales on Sundays, and whether to allow the sale of draft beer in restaurants and bars.
Mayor Jerry Willis said the city council called for the bills after hearing from various area restaurants concerned with their competitiveness.
“They felt like for our restaurants to be competitive with other restaurants in the region, it would benefit them to be able to have Sunday sales and draft beer,” he said.
Another concern was that, upon completion of the Wind Creek Wetumpka Hotel and Casino, a number of new restaurants would open in the complex, selling on Sunday and serving draft beer. Governed by federal law, the local dry Sunday and draft beer ban would have no impact.
Willis noted that surrounding cities like Pratt­ville and Montgomery loosened their blue laws years ago, and that change has been felt in the cash registers of local eateries and nightclubs.
The bills would not affect retail sales for off-premises consumption.
The city council passed a resolution last month to ask the legislative delegation to draft and file the bills.
If the bills are approved, the residents of Wetumpka would be asked the following questions:
•Do you favor the legal sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages by restaurants, hotels and nightclubs for on-premises consumption within this municipality on Sunday between 12 p.m. (noon) and 10 p.m., and on those Sundays on which occurs New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) after 12 p.m. (noon)?
•Should draft or keg beer be sold for on-premises consumption?
State Rep. Barry Mask, who planned to introduce the bills before the Legislature left on spring break, said it wasn’t the kind of change he wanted to make legislatively, but he didn’t see a problem with letting the people have a say on the matter.
“Any time you have alcohol-related bills, it can get interesting,” Mask said. “But the city is being faced with the economic realities of all the cities and counties around us having it. And that’s been a problem.”
The reaction from The Herald’s Facebook users was pretty unanimous in its support of the legislation.
“Yes and yes” was the most common response to the two questions of the more than 50 responses received.
Brie Rogers said restaurants where she’s worked lose business because of the Sunday prohibition.
“Alcohol is honestly where restaurants make most of their profit,” she said. “This means more money to help keep local businesses open.”
“If someone wants to drink on Sunday, they either have to plan ahead (which is a pain) or take the business to Montgomery,” said Facebook user Cindy McIlhargey. “(There) would definitely be more sales tax for Wetumpka and the restaurants and bars would make a killing on Sundays with football, etc.”
Shannon Smith of Holtville called both questions “an easy yes.”
“I don’t understand why we would want tax and revenue dollars going to the next county,” she said.
Eric Hunter noted that it’s “2013 and Wetumpka is just getting to this,” and expressed his laughter through an abbreviation popular online. Scott Angus implored the city to “please move out of the Dark Ages.”
“Elmore County is just hurting (itself) in losing tax money by being a dry county on Sundays,” said Joni Musser of Wetumpka.
Only three respondents were opposed to Sunday sales in restaurants.
“That’s the Lord’s day and (alcohol) should not be sold that day,” said Janet Davis.

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