Meeks calls for ordinance limiting alcohol sales near churches, schools

Published 3:15 am Thursday, January 11, 2018

Businesses could soon be barred from selling alcohol within 500 feet of a church or school within the city limits of Troy.

Councilman Greg Meeks, District 2, suggested that the city create the ordinance while discussing a request by Trojan Teriyaki and Hibachi House for a restaurant retail liquor license.

“I’d like us to consider as a council in the future – some cities and communities have an ordinance that you cannot sell liquor within 500 feet of a church or school,” Meeks said. “Once we approve a license for an on-premise restaurant, who is to say they won’t turn into a bar?”

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Trojan Teriyaki and Hibachi House is within that distance from Southside Baptist Church.

The council ultimately decided to carry the request over to their next meeting while they look into neighboring businesses that voiced opposition to the restaurant being granted the license when canvassed about the issue.

Owner Amy Hu said she doesn’t understand why anyone would be opposed to her restaurant selling alcohol.

“I don’t think it would cause any problems,” Hu said. “And it would help our business a lot. People come here and ask for it and some leave when we tell them we don’t sell alcohol. We just want to be able to sell beer and sake with a meal. I understand (the church’s) concerns, but we’ll make sure people don’t get drunk and cause problems.”

City attorney Dickey Calhoun said it would not be legal to arbitrarily deny the business a license, but that safety concerns are a legal reason to deny alcohol licenses.

“This is also a safety hazard with it backing onto traffic on South Brundidge Street,” Meeks said.

Councilmember Robert Jones, District 1, said he is concerned about businesses near churches selling alcohol now that they can begin selling at noon on Sundays.

Mayor Jason Reeves said carrying Trojan Teriyaki’s request would be the proper thing to do while they consider concerns.

“If you’re considering denying the license, some research would be prudent,” Reeves said.

Council president Marcus Paramore said the ordinance is something to consider, but that the council needs to heavily weigh that decision.

“We have bars very close to churches already,” Paramore said. “I’m not saying that’s good, bad or indifferent; that’s just how it is. Denying someone right now is iffy for me.”

Paramore said Wednesday that this ordinance will not be coming up immediately.

“I think this is something that will just be an ongoing discussion for some time,” Paramore said. “I don’t see any immediate action at this point. I think it’s going to take a lot more discussion. I don’t want to single out on-premise can’t do something, but off-premise can do what they want to or vice versa. I think it needs some good, thorough research and thinking things out, weighing the pros and cons – We don’t want to jump into something too quickly.”

Reeves said that regardless of what the council decides to do, existing businesses selling alcohol within 500 feet of a church would not be affected.

“That would be arbitrary and not something you could do to an already existing location,” Reeves said. “The only way the ordinance would work would be the possibility of future locations.”

Reeves said the council can look toward the Alabama League of Municipalities to see what other communities have done.

“One of the great things about the League is you get an opportunity to see what other people have done without having to reinvent the wheel,” Reeves said.