Judge upholds commissions’ license denial

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Pike County Commission’s decision to deny an alcohol license for a Springhill restaurant and bar was not arbitrary or capricious, according to a court ruling.

Pike County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Kelley issued the ruling earlier this month in response to an appeal by CBC LLC of the ruling which denied a liquor license to operate a brew pub or restaurant at the old Cooter’s store in the Springhill community on Highway 87.

“Reasonable minds may be divided as to the wisdom of the decision of the County Commission to disapprove the request, but this court finds that CBC, LLC has failed to show the decision to disapprove the alcohol licenses was arbitrary and capricious,” Kelley said in his ruling.

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Commissioners in September 2015 denied Chris Dickens’ request on behalf of CBC LLC for a license that would allow him to develop a restaurant and entertainment venue in Springhill. At the time, residents of the area raised safety concerns about the location.

In October, CBC LLS filed an appeal to the Circuit Court, claiming the decision to deny the license was “arbitrary and capricious.” A hearing was held in March, during which each of the members of the Pike County Commission testified about their reasons for the denial. Dickens and the landowner also testified.

“The court does not have the legal authority to substitute its judgment for that of the Pike County Commission,” Kelley wrote. “In facts, this court lacks the authority to approve said application unless it finds the decision to deny the application was arbitrary and capricious.

“This court finds that the Pike County Commission members individually gathered information about the application and after due consideration of all the facts and factors, including the location, traffic, the location near a busy major intersection, other off premises locations nearby, security concerns, homicides in the area, information gathered from the Sheriff and County Engineer, the business plan of the applicant which included bus transportation for intoxicated individuals, community opposition and impact on the community.

“To prove the disapproval by the County Commission was arbitrary and capricious, the applicant has the burden to show no reasonable justification to support the decision to disapprove.”

Allen Jones, attorney for the Pike County Commission, declined to comment on the ruling.

Joel Williams, attorney for CBC LLC could not be reached for comment.

Under state law, CBC LLC has 42 days from the April 8 ruling to file an appeal.