By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Full Video at the Bottom, Alcohol discussion begins at 25:45) In a 3-2 vote, the Fort Payne City Council approve a resolution to send the Sunday Alcohol Sales issue to Montgomery for approval, and then hold a final vote of the council on the issue.
In earlier meetings, the issue was to be sent to the public for a vote. City Attorney Rocky explained that, “when we presented this act to our legislative delegation they suggested some changes based on what they had seen everywhere else, and it puts the ultimate action on the city council. That’s the change they recommended to us."
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Council President Brian Baine explained his opposition of Sunday Sales: “I still agree that we need to put this to a vote to the people and I’m not in favor of taking it out of that act; to not allow the people to vote on it.”
“I’m going to agree with Brian,” agreed Councilman Gerald Taylor. “The question was asked when we had the forum, whether or not I would support Sunday Alcohol Sales, and I made the statement at that time that I would not, but if it was left up to the vote of the people, and the people agree on it, I could live with that. I feel the same way Brian does, I feel like it needs to be by vote of the people.”
Then Baine said: “My reason for that, is when the wet/dry issue came up, it was voted on by the people, with that ordinance in place that there would be no Sunday Alcohol sales, and in order to change that, I feel that would put it back out to a vote of the people.” Councilman Wade Hill then explained his support for the change: “I don’t disagree with what Brian and Red(Taylor) have said. I’ve been overwhelmed with people telling me that I got elected to vote on things that are difficult; this is a difficult thing.”
“One other member of this council and myself have more than one reason to not support the sale of alcohol anywhere, but we’ve put the good of the city above our personal conflicts and history,” said Hill.
Hill also explained that while he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t have a problem with those that do so responsibly. “This is not to me a religious issue; I think this is a personal issue and a decision on what’s best for the community.”
“I don’t have a problem with it, and if we want to go with the recommendation of the legislative delegation, I’m willing to put this to a council vote. I don’t disagree with either one of you, but I think now is the time to decide what we are going to decide,” concluded Hill.
“Ya’ll remember what I said in the forum. I think it’s something we had to look at sometime. I have no problem with voting on it. Sometimes you have to make the decision if that’s what the delegation says,” said Councilman Johnny Eberhart.
“If we are going to continue to grow and attract tourism, we’re going to have to have it. I just think it’s something we’ll have to pass if we get better restaurants,” said Eberhart.
City Attorney Rocky Watson then explained; “There are some really big economic possibilities right now. If this thing is delayed for a (public) vote, they are going to go away. And it’s been made very clear, unless Fort Payne approves Sunday sales, they aren’t going to happen. And they would be a big a major boost for revenue and employment.”
“It gives us a marketing tool and gives us a chance to grow our community and add a better lifestyle,” said Councilwoman Lynn Brewer who was in favor of the vote.
“We’re told we can’t get conferences and those types of things because people want to come in for a conference on Sunday and serve alcohol because that’s what they are accustomed to,” said Brewer.
“I don’t think there is any reason in putting the issue to a vote and dividing our community, and spending lots of money. When it’s our job to make those decisions,” said Brewer. “I think it’s our responsibility as council people to make that decision.”
“The first thing I looked at is what it’s going to contributed as far as alcohol revenue itself, and it’s not that much,” said Mayor Larry Chesser.
Chesser explained that the revenue difference is the additional food sales that sunday alcohol sales brings in. New Year’s Eve is also on a Sunday this year. Chesser also explained that Sunday Sales will still have to be approved in Montgomery and voted on by the legislature, and then approved again by the council.
“We want to do our due-diligence and make sure these things happen in the best way possible,” added Brewer. “I think for sustained growth we are going to have to have alcohol sales on Sundays.”
The resolution passed with Wade Hill, Johnny Eberhart, and Lynn Brewer voting for, and with Council President Brian Baine and Gerald Taylor voting against.
Watch the Full Video of the Meeting: