By Jeff Noble
Monday night’s London City Council meeting started off with a packed crowd, with most of them anxious about the council’s plans on updating the city’s alcohol ordinance.
Some thought action on the ordinance would be taken at the session, so they came to see.
As it turned out, the crowd found out no plans have been made yet by the alcohol ordinance committee, which was formed during the council’s session back in January.
Because of that, there was no action. But there was discussion.
Led by Ronnie Ball, the pastor of Souls Harbor Church in London, the group of around 25 persons were waiting for council members to come in.
Saying he was answering a request on the ordinance, Ball told the council and Mayor Troy Rudder, “I’m here to recommend that we see the city keep the laws as they presently are and not expand.”
“We’re just looking at the ordinance in its entirety,” Rudder told him.
At issue is a committee formed on Jan. 7 to review London’s alcohol ordinance in regards to its entertainment section. Rudder, council members Nancy Vaughn and Judd Weaver, and Police Chief Stewart Walker, make up the committee, and plan to make updates on the ordinance that was originally drawn up in 2005. That came after voters approved a special election to allow the city of London to sell alcoholic beverages by the drink in larger restaurants.
At the meeting, Rudder added the work on updating the ordinance would take two work sessions to go over the material, and he hoped to have more on their findings at the council meeting last month. While council had their session on Feb. 4, Rudder was unable to attend, due to previous committments.
City Attorney Larry Bryson told Ball the committee wanted to see if there may have been some incorrect information on the ordinance.
“The ordinance has to stay within the parameters of the ‘moist’ vote, and would need to be updated.”
When someone in the audience asked, “Will you have any more restaurants that will serve alcohol?” Bryson replied, “Right now, any restaurant that has over 100 seats in the city can apply for a license.”
“They would have to comply with the 70/30 rule. Our Chief of Police is our local ABC Administrator, and we’re looking into tightening up some regulations.”
According to state law, restaurants in London can sell alcohol by the drink if it has more than 100 seats and gets at least 70 percent of its gross receipts from food sales.
Ball added in his remarks to Rudder and the council, “There’s so much that we just don’t know.”
Walker replied, “We don’t have a local hearing board here, and if a restaurant has a violation, we have to go to Frankfort for a hearing.”
One question Ball asked had to do with one of the community’s biggest events.
“People are concerned that if the alcohol ordinance is loosened, would there be selling of alcohol at events like the (World) Chicken Festival?”
“It would more than likely not happen at the World Chicken Festival, because that’s a public event,” Walker answered back.
Another audience member commented about 15 minutes into the session, “Nobody knows what the council has done, and I was of the opinion that you would vote on the ordinance tonight.
“The committee hasn’t met yet,” council member Bobby Joe Parman quickly said.
Vaughn added, “We haven’t had time to meet and Stewart (Walker) has been working quite hard lately.”
“If we have a decision, we’ll have it on the agenda,” Rudder told the man, Ball and the crowd. The mayor went on to say one of the items on the ordinance that needed to be updated was the 70/30 law, to remind people that the 70 percent food sales is for sales inside the restaurants, and doesn’t apply to carryout.
Walker assured the crowd, “We just want to make the ordinance in black and white, and address some things we first did in 2005 and now need to clean up.”
“We don’t want things to be loosened up. We just don’t want anything to cause trouble in London,” Ball remarked.
“We don’t, either,” was Rudder’s reply. The group left a couple of minutes later.
Action was taken on a few items on the agenda. The council approved a motion to file a lawsuit and condemn property that is vacant at 410 North Long Street. The property belongs to the Henry and Ollie Sizemore estate, with Linda Stevens as the property’s administrator.
“I notified Mrs. Stevens about the property. It’s not in the best of condition, and it’s been over a year. She never fixed the porch,” said the city’s building inspector, Doug Gilbert.
Four persons were also approved on three boards. Both Mackey Williams and Steve Berry were appointed to the Vacant Property Commission, while Berry Cupp was named to the London/Laurel Joint Planning Commission, and Mike Trosper named to the London/Laurel County Industrial Development Board.
Stewart Madon of the Laurel-London Optimist Club made a request of funding for the group. He was told by Rudder to make a request in writing before April 1, as all department heads in the city looks into working on the new budget for the 2013-14 Fiscal Year.
Also making a request was Dr. Keaton Smith, who is organizing a 5K and 10K run for Cornerstone Christian School. He wanted to get permission to have the run on March 23 or April 20, with preliminaries for the race to start at 7 a.m., and the race itself to begin at 8 a.m.
Smith said he had two options on the race’s course. One would start at Corinth Baptist Church, go down around Whitley Road, circle around Sublimity School and go back up Whitley Road and Corinth Church.
“We would like to have this again next year, and eventually grow it into an annual event.”
After Walker told Smith of concerns about Old Whitley Road and Middle Ground Road being heavily traveled, Rudder asked Smith to “get with Maj. House and try to have this race on the north or south routes. “Get with the Chief (Walker) when you have time about the route. We’ve had complaints about speeders going down Middle Ground Road.”
One motion was made by council member Jim Hays for a resolution to encourage the city council to have tornado warning shelters in the city of London, and “encourage the county to do so, too.” The motion was approved.
When the regular session adjourned, a meeting of the London Finance Company was called to appoint Hays as a director, and Vaughn as vice-president of the company, which Bryson said was a legal device created by the state legislature to allow city governments and school boards the opportunity to borrow money and use for bond issues.