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Alcohol availability changed in the county

There will be some new options for business owners wanting to sell alcohol in Newton County. The board of commissioners (BOC) approved changes to the county’s alcohol ordinance Tuesday.

Country clubs, golf courses, indoor commercial recreation facilities — excluding dance halls and nightclubs — outdoor commercial recreation facilities, private clubs and special events facilities are now allowed to apply for a beer and wine pouring license.

The county’s newly updated alcohol ordinance also allows hotels and restaurants to sell liquor in the overlay areas if their license is approved, and anywhere else in the county, if a conditional use permit is approved by the BOC.

During a work session to discuss the new ordinance, District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz asked if approving the ordinance would open up alcohol sales at hotel and restaurants to the whole county.

“While in theory it would open it up more,” County Manager Lloyd Kerr said, “there is a lot of restriction there that would limit the place where you could serve alcohol.”

One of those restrictions is that alcohol sales cannot exceed 25 percent of annual sales revenue. Also special event facilities that do not have an alcohol license are allotted eight times a year to have alcohol at an event that is operated by a caterer. Alcohol in those facilities is permitted through a licensed caterer.

“In the general alcohol ordinance, in the code of ordinance, talks about the minimum for food sales that have to occur,” Kerr said. “This will help us continue to where we won’t have bars, Honky Tonks or those types of establishments in places where it is generally considered unfavorable to the community.”

The ordinances have been put in place to help generate more business and restaurants throughout the county, but some citizens said it would come at a cost. Newton County resident Ronny Brannen spoke against the ordinance during a public hearing Tuesday.

“I hear this all the time, that financially we need to do things to take care of the county,” said Brannen, a pastor at Prospect United Methodist Church. “I’m just concerned we’re going to throw another level of problems on another level of problems. I don’t see [a need for the ordinance] when I deal with families and breakups and DUIs, and I deal with the morgue and all the situations that come out of [alcohol].

“I would ask you to oppose changing it and see where we can work instead of throwing another level of alcohol on things,” he said.

Newton County Chair Keith Ellis, who only votes in the case of a tie, said he was not in favor of changing the ordinance.
“I’m worried about those small little places going to develop and the sheriff is not going to be able to go out there and oversee it,” he said.

District 1 Commissioner John Douglas and District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson also spoke out against the ordinance changes before voting.

The ordinance passed 3-2 with Henderson and Douglas voting against.