Berryville council debates liquor ordinance

Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Carroll County District Judge Dale Ramsey (left) administers the oath of office to Berryville City Council members (from left) Linda Riddlesperger, Jason Williams and JoAnn Harris before a council meeting held Tuesday, Jan. 5, at the Berryville Community Center. Max Nichols, who was unable to attend the meeting, was sworn in later.
Robert Cox / Carroll County News

The Berryville City Council last week debated changes to the city’s existing liquor ordinance.

According to Mayor Tim McKinney, a proposed amendment is necessary to bring the ordinance in line with recent changes proposed by the state Alcohol Beverage Control board.

“The ABC board says our existing ordinance allows for everything but the sale of ‘spiritous liquids,’ ” McKinney said during the Jan. 5 meeting.

The existing ordinance — passed in 1998 to replace one that had been on the books for more than 40 years at the time and includes language addressing all manner of intoxicating beverages — was intended to cover all possible future applications. A change in personnel at the ABC, McKinney said, resulted in a different interpretation of the state’s liquor law, necessitating an updated ordinance to add the missing phrase.

“This is a different attorney at the ABC,” McKinney said.

Last Tuesday’s discussion was a continuation from the council’s meeting on Dec. 15, when the issue was tabled after McKinney reminded the council of the city’s existing ordinance.

“When we first adopted that ordinance is whenever we were first getting some applications for on-site beer and wine, and our old ordinance that we’d had since the 1950s or 1960s wasn’t valid. [We passed it] thinking that it would take care of all future applications for liquor by the drink. That’s why we put that so much of their sales have to come from restaurant sales.”

According to the ordinance, on-premises consumption permits are limited to restaurants and private clubs. Restaurants are defined as “any business that derives at least 50 percent of its gross revenues from the serving or sale of prepared food items.”

The existing ordinance puts the application fee for on-site liquor permits at $20, with a $250 annual privilege tax. McKinney said that would remain in place, but that the city could also add language to the ordinance that would result in more revenue for the city by raising the sales tax on alcohol sales.

“We can go up to another 5 percent on top of our local tax,” McKinney said. “If we want to put that in our ordinance, we can do that.”

After hearing McKinney’s answers to a number of questions, council members seemed accepting of the proposed changes.

“Ultimately, it sounds to me like we’ve already got an ordinance on the books and this needs a little bit of terminology to make it passable to the current standard that they accept,” council member Jason Williams said. “I’ll say if you’re going to have this, this is the way to do it, to control what you don’t want in this town. That being said, I’m still probably not going to vote for that. I just can’t bring myself to vote for this. I’d just as soon there not be any, but I will say that if you’re going to have it, this is the way you do it.”

A draft of the amended ordinance will be presented to the council at its next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 19 at the Berryville Community Center.

“If everybody is kind of in agreement, we’ll spruce this thing up a little bit,” McKinney said, “and all of us will sit down and come back with something that will try to work for our community.”

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