City council denies local beer license

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Troy City Council on Tuesday denied a local business owner’s request to obtain a beer license for his pool hall, citing its proximity to a dance studio and a cultural arts complex.

“I would support you in a different location, but not in this location,” District 2 Councilman Greg Meeks told Willie Batie, co-owner of the Eight on the Break pool hall located at 303 E. Walnut St. Meeks made the recommendation to deny the license request, citing concerns he and the council had received from nearby residents and businesses.

District 5 Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson, whose district includes the area in question, was the only council member to vote against the denial.

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Batie and his partner, Floyd Larry, had applied for a retail beer license for their business, which opened in July. More than a dozen opponents of the effort attended a meeting earlier this month at which they voiced concerns over the proximity of the pool hall to both the In His Steps Dance studio, which is next door; the Studio, located on the other side; and the Johnson Center for the Arts, across the street.

“We are very pleased with the council’s decision,” said Vicki Pritchett, executive director of the Johnson Center. “While we are supportive of Mr. Batie, we feel if this had passed it would most definitely affect our student activities … 90 percent of what we do is with children. We’re not anti-business or anti-billiards hall, but we are pro education and our building of a cultural arts facilities.”

On Tuesday, Batie spoke again to the council and to the audience, saying “I want to emphasize the fact that our business will not jeopardize the safety of your children.”

Batie said his pool hall is “not a bar, not a lounge, not a club … we cater to a different clientele.” He also questioned opposition to the pool hall’s beer permit request when alcohol is available at private functions at The Studio, which is next door to the pool hall.

“For lack of a better term, it seems hypocritical that right next door, since we’ve been open in July, several events have taken place where alcohol was either served or sold,” he said.

Pritchett said after the meeting the Studio is rented for private functions and used for fund-raising efforts for the cultural arts center and alcohol can be served at those functions. “It’s evening or weekend events, never a time when we have children’s activities going on,” she said. “Those are two different things.”

And, she said, despite Batie’s reassurances that the billiard hall would not be open during the times of student activities such as art programs or proms, there are simply no guarantees. “The beer license or alcohol licenses doesn’t specify what day they will be open,” she said. “With a license, beer can be served at 10 a.m. in the morning, six days a week and as much as I’d like to think the owners of the billiard hall would agree to (only serve beer) two days a week, there is no guarantee.”

Batie said the business is open 5 p.m. to midnight each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “We’ve told them we would work with them if they student activities,” he said.

Batie said he did not know what his next move would be. “I’m going to re-apply,” he said. “I’m going to talk to legal council and see if I have any legal recourse.”

In other business on Tuesday, the council:

• Approved the rezoning of property at 1410 Brundidge St. from residential to C4 commercial.

• Awarded more than $2.7 million in bids for projects to replace 35-plus large wooden utility polls in the Elm Street to Park Street loop as well as upgrade equipment at the substation. Brian Chandler, director of utilities, said the wooden polls are more than 40 years old and will be replaced with concrete polls. “This will bring that loop up to the same standards as our other polls,” he said. Chain Construction received the bid for the project.

• Approved amendments to the city’s zoning ordinance which had been reviewed during a public hearing at the Oct. 10 meeting.

• Approved the purchase of a truck-type ambulance for the Troy Fire Department. The council had previously approved the purchase, which takes advantage of a $150,000 federal grant received earlier this year to offset most of the cost of the vehicle. However, equipment standard mandates have changed in recent months, requiring a more expensive power lift on the ambulance and the council needed to approve the additional costs. The city’s out-of-pocket costs for the ambulance are now about $55,000. “This will be well worth it and we have the money in the capital budget,” Mayor Jason Reeves said.

• Heard an update from Reeves on the Red Ribbon Week efforts underway. “We kicked off Red Ribbon Week on Friday at Pike Liberal Arts School and Charles Henderson High School,” he said. “We’re doing some things differently this year to reach out to more children and raise awareness.”