First legal sales still a ways off
By Greg Bird
It was fitting that Friday’s weather was rainy, as January 3, 2020 was the day McCreary County officially became wet. With a vote of 4-1 the second reading of the McCreary County Alcohol Beverage Control Ordinance was passed by the Fiscal Court – setting the stage for the first legalized alcohol sales in the entire county since the World War II era.
Only minor changes, mainly clearing up language and grammar were incorporated to the final version of the ordinance, making it nearly identical to the first draft passed last month.
One thing that wasn’t added since the first reading was the possibility of a Sunday sales license – something that many advocates for legalizing sales were not happy with. State law prohibits Sunday alcohol sales, and sales after midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, but allows for counties and cities to adopt a special license allowing businesses to do so for an additional fee.
Magistrate Bill Hale, the only Magistrate to vote against the ordinance, noted his opposition had nothing to do with being against legalizing sales, but rather with his feelings that Sunday sales should be included in the bill.
“I’m not against alcohol sales,” he stated. “I don’t think it (the ordinance) was very user friendly to some of the organizations. The people spoke, we need to give them the opportunity.”
As the ordinance can be amended at any time through action by the Fiscal Court, the addition of Sunday sales could be included at a future time if desired.
Despite Hale’s objections the Court passed the ordinance without further comment. Even with the passage, it still will be at least a couple months before McCreary Countians will be able to purchase beer at their local convenience store or get an alcoholic beverage with their dinner at a local restaurant.
All businesses or individuals that wish to obtain a license to sell must submit an application through the newly established local ABC office. According to the ordinance an applicant must first publish a notice in the newspaper, advertising their intent to apply for the license. This opens a 30-day window for anyone opposed to the license to file a protest with the state ABC Commission.
Once the 30-day period has elapsed, the application can be reviewed, and necessary background checks completed. After the local license has been granted, a state license must also be obtained before any legalized sales can be allowed.
According to the ordinance the first licenses will have an issue date of April 1, meaning it will be a few months before the first legal sales (outside of Stearns) can occur for local businesses. The date is set by the state, but businesses will still be able to obtain a license at a pro-rated rate prior to the date if the process is complete, but the cost for such a short-term license (50-percent of the yearly cost) may be prohibitive for some businesses.
Following the passage of the ordinance, the Fiscal Court also appointed the first-ever Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator – placing Brenda Blevins in that role. The initial salary for the position will be $30,000 annually.
Magistrate Roger Phillips asked how Blevins’ salary would be paid, with no revenue coming in from sales for at least a few months.
County Finance Officer Randy Jones said the General Fund had money put aside for the position, and would be used to pay the salary until licensing and regulatory fees start coming in. The General Fund will also be replenished from the fees when available.
The duties of the ABC Administrator will be to review all license applications and visit establishments holding a license to ensure they are in compliance. The Administrator will have full police powers, and has been bonded through the Fiscal Court to perform her duties.
Judge Executive Jimmie Greene said he planned to ask the Fiscal Court to appoint County Treasurer Geraldine Laxton as a Deputy under the ABC Administrator to assist with the financial reporting and collection of regulatory and licensing fees.
An application can be downloaded from the county website: www.mccrearycounty.com, or picked up at the new county ABC Office in the Tourism office next door to the library.