Mentone one step closer to alcohol sales
May 26, 2016
Southern Torch (3842 articles)
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Mentone one step closer to alcohol sales

By Tyler Pruett

tyler@southerntorch.com

MENTONE, Ala. — Thanks to a recent bill passed by the Alabama Legislature, the City of Mentone is one step closer to alcohol sales.

During the 2016 legislative session, Rep. Mark Tuggle (R–Alexander City) introduced HB 69 and earlier this month, Gov. Robert Bentley signed it into law. This is potentially groundbreaking legislation that will allow small municipalities like Mentone to serve alcoholic beverages.

The Town of Mentone, with it’s thriving restaurant and arts scene, has long sought to serve alcohol within its city limits. DeKalb County is technically a dry county, despite Fort Payne and Collinsville selling alcohol. These towns met the criteria to hold a referendum vote, establishing alcohol sales within their city limits. State law requires a municipality to have a minimum population of 1,000 in order to hold the necessary vote, precluding Mentone in the past from holding a vote, as their population is at 364 according to the most recent data.

The new law does not change the population requirement, but could allow Mentone to establish a “community development district.” The new law allows for several different districts which all have a separate criteria, but one seems to be tailored specifically for Dekalb County’s favorite mountain town:

“‘Community development district’ also means a commercial district located in a dry county that shares a geographic border with another state, has an elevation of at least 1500 feet, and has a recreational waterway, specialty shops and restaurants, summer camps, and retreat centers, an art gallery, and annual festivals showcasing the area.”

Local business owners are excited at the prospect of serving alcohol in their establishments. Laura Catherine Moon, owner of the famous Wildflower Cafe said, “Mentone is a quaint, nostalgic town and my only concern would be corporate business trying to move in and capitalize. On the other hand, it would help the revenue for Mentone and to keep monies we are losing to Georgia and Fort Payne.”

While some are reasonably concerned about it allowing large chain corporations to move in, the community development district designation would allow the town control what new businesses move in; preserving the quaintness that makes Mentone so unique.

The bill lays out the specific procedures for a municipality to apply and receive a community development district status. As this law is newly on the books, it will take time to fully understand the procedures and guidelines. Mentone Mayor Rob Hammond has already begun the initial steps of the process.

“Our attorney is currently meeting with the League of Municipalities to lay the legal groundwork,” Hammond said, “We’re trying to determine if individual businesses must apply or if we apply as a community.”

“We must also determine who the governing body for the district must consist of,” he added.

The law does establish certain guidelines for the qualifying districts such as only selling for on-site consumption and all tax revenues and applicable fees stay within the county, boosting revenue from tourism. This bill not only helps Mentone, but also could stimulate tourism across the state by helping many resorts and other attractions responsibly serve alcohol, and keeping the added revenue at the county level.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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