Drinks on the house

August 4, 2006

beerPNJ story: Liquor sales may face battle missed the real point of the county commission action. The ordinance will actually make it easier for restaurants and bars to open and sale alcohol in commerical districts, but it does put the power of deciding who can do it in the hands of county government.

Right now there is 1000-ft buffer from churches and schools in commerical zones. Businesses have to get a variance and prove undue hardship – which is nearly impossible.

I hated that rule because it limited the quality of restuarants solely because a church decided to rent space in a nearby shopping center. So this change might be good – unless it lends itself to liquor-wine-beer sales special requests being granted based on favoritism by commissioners and county officials.

We need to know the rules for granting the special requests.

Here’s the PNJ stories on how the decision process on the 1000-ft buffer back in Nov. 2003 by former IN reporter Steve Mraz and on the actual vote by Shelia Ingram

Commission weighs alcohol-sales change
Pensacola News Journal (FL)
November 6, 2003

Steve Mraz

If Escambia County commissioners approve, new businesses no longer will be able to get exceptions to an ordinance that prohibits alcohol sales within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and day care centers.

The proposed change comes up at tonight’s meeting. Commissioners Cliff Barnhart and Bill Dickson haven’t made up their minds, and commissioners Tom Banjanin and Marie Young appear to favor the proposal.

Young said it is a great idea for the county to adopt a measure that would rule out any exceptions.

“The proposal may be unpopular to some, but I think our children and our churches need to be protected,” she said.

Dickson was undecided on the issue Wednesday afternoon, saying he wants to listen to a staff briefing on the ordinance and ask some questions before deciding.

“At this point, honestly I can’t say whether I’m for it or against it,” he said.

Likewise, Barnhart said he wants to hear the pros and cons tonight.

Commissioner Janice Gilley could not be reached for comment.

The issue came up recently after a contingent from Smyrna Baptist Church complained to commissioners that Founaris Bros. Greek Restaurant, which is across U.S. 29 from the church, had begun serving alcohol.

Founaris Bros. got a variance to serve alcohol within 1,000 feet of the church. Because the restaurant is across U.S. 29 from the church, it was not required to notify church officials it received approval to sell alcohol.

If the change is approved, it would not affect existing businesses that already sell alcohol near such facilities.

Dickson said he would wait for discussions on the topic at tonight’s meeting before deciding which way to go.

Alcohol ordinance gets 6-month trial

Pensacola News Journal (FL)
November 7, 2003

Sheila Ingram

Escambia County commissioners are allowing a six-month trial period on an ordinance that forbids the sale of alcohol within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and day-care centers.

Commissioners Marie Young and Cliff Barnhart cast the two no votes in the 3-2 vote, but for different reasons.

Barnhart wanted to shelve the ordinance until members of the county legal staff could work out loopholes that allowed a restaurant located on U.S. 29 to get a variance for alcohol sales. Young wanted to prohibit alcohol sales in vicinities of churches and schools but did not want the six-month trial period tacked on.

“I’m not against the ordinance at all, but I didn’t want them to bring it back in six months,” Young said.

The impetus for the ordinance was because Founaris Bros. Greek Restaurant, located across four lanes from Symrna Baptist Church, was not required to notify church officials when it got a variance because U.S. 29 separates the church from the restaurant.

Church members complained to the board when they realized the restaurant had obtained an agreement to sell alcohol.

Several people addressed the board on both sides of the issue Thursday night.

“We’re pleased with the vote, but we would have preferred not to go through the six-month review,” said Jim Hicks, assistant to the president of Pensacola Christian College.

A Molino resident told the board the ordinance would limit economic development in northern Escambia County, and Ed Schroeder, vice president of tourism for the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce, asked that it be delayed so the chamber can review the details.

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