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Council won’t untap beer sales restrictions

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By PETER SAWYER

LaFOLLETTE—A proposal to relax regulations on beer sales was narrowly rejected by city officials at Tuesday’s meeting after a local pastor and opponents rallied against the measure.
Looser requirements would’ve allowed franchises such as O’Charley’s or Aubrey’s to establish restaurants in LaFollette, councilmember Joe Bolinger said. Under the existing regulations, businesses can’t sell beer within 500 feet of a church or school. Changes would have only applied to the business district — allowing the downtown Shell Station, near the tennis courts, and the East Gate Shell Station, near LaFollette Middle School, to sell packaged beer. New businesses could also move next to schools and churches located in the business district under the failed plan.
At the start of the meeting, Dr. Duane Mills, pastor of First Baptist Church of LaFollette, addressed the city council about the proposed changes.
“Zoning creates ‘buffer’ zones for the protection of the health, safety and welfare (of) our community,” Mills said. “These buffer zones are a useful tool to manage risks associated with increased alcohol sales. There is evidence to show that the increased number of licensed premises in a given locality is associated with increased levels of alcohol-related harm.”
Mills referred to a World Health Organization study and United States Department of Transportation Statistics of alcohol-related crimes and emergencies.
“Increased availability results in increased susceptibility and that is part of the risk that must be continually managed,” he said. “You are charged with the difficult task of balancing public safety and revenue collection. If you choose to increase the density of alcohol availability by removing buffer zones, you will affect public safety and public health. We have a vulnerable population in downtown LaFollette, which could be adversely impacted by a greater density of alcohol vendors.”
Mills said it is standard practice for governments around the world to manage risk and mentioned restrictions against selling alcohol within 1,000 feet of a church or school in Bloomingdale, Ind. and Orlando, Fla.
Council-member Hansford Hatmaker made a motion to reject the proposed changes. The vote tied with Hatmaker and Bob Fannon voting yes, and council members Joe Bolinger and Stephanie Grimm voting no. Mayor Mike Stanfield broke the tie with a yes vote.
The changes would also have increased the application for a beer permit fee from $250 to $500 and modified the policy to grant temporary licenses.