Rossville city council’s five members, during their monthly meeting on Monday, May 12, unveiled a new ordinance concerning the sale of beer and wine.
Ordinance 475 was introduced to help attract restaurants to the area.
The measure was proposed by council member Hal Gray, however fellow council member Rick Buff was the primary speaker during the council’s consideration of the change.
The Rossville Downtown Development Authority requested the council consider pouring rights after Gray was approached by several businesses that expressed interest in opening a Rossville location.
“It’s my understanding that the RDDA was interested in bringing restaurants that felt like they had to have those pouring rights to be profitable,” Buff said. “We’ve spent several meetings going over everything and sent this back and forth to our attorney several times just to clear up the language and make sure (the city is) protected.”
Mayor Teddy Harris read from statements made during a called meeting in which the topic was initiated, including one by Gray, an officer with the Chickamauga Police Department, saying, “It would be beneficial to the city and it would not effect DUI accidents, since those accidents usually happen within two or three miles from home.”
Rossville is currently the last area in Walker County to adopt restaurant pouring rights legislation and its officials utilized the city of Chickamauga’s code as a template for Ordinance 475.
Council members debated various tweaks to the wording, with members expressing concerns about preventing establishments from having the atmosphere of a bar rather than a restaurant and insisting that hours of operation must be closely regulated.
Council members Gray, Buff and Joyce Wall voted in favor of the ordinance during its first reading Monday, May 12.
“This isn’t the answer to all of (the city’s) problems in my opinion,” Buff said. “The RDDA felt that this will give them one more tool in their pocket, that they might be able to start doing something to bring more people into the city.”
Buff said he has heard citizens express both support and concern in recent weeks regarding the measure.
A second vote will occur in June, during the next city council meeting, at which time a resolution will establish the fees ($500 each) for a beer or wine pouring licenses.
Provisions call for establishing a five-person board to monitor business compliance with the ordinance that will also govern package sales of fermented alcoholic beverages at grocery and convenient stores.
The ordinance would require that restaurants serving beer or wine be at least 2,500 square feet in size, with a seated dining capacity for at least 75 people and maintain 75 percent of annual gross sales from food.
Gray stated that two Mexican restaurants — only identifying Los Potros — had contacted him directly about possible expansion into Rossville. He also claimed that a few other restaurants have contacted the RDDA with similar interest, but have signed confidentiality agreements and could not be named.
Permitted hours of operation would be weekdays from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m., on Saturdays from 11 a.m. until midnight and no alcohol would be sold on Sundays.
Patrons will not be able to drink on Christmas day but will be allowed to imbibe on election days, provided the restaurant is more than 250 feet from the polling precincts.
Applicants must also be more than 300 feet from a school, nursing home or church — something which prevents allowing licenses being granted to two existing businesses, Roy’s Grill and Old South Restaurant.
Pouring licenses may be suspended or revoked for any violation of the ordinance, state laws or delinquency on license fees and taxes.
A first time violation (within a 12-month period) would result in a pouring license being suspended for up to 30 days, a second violation could earn suspension for up to 60 days and a third violation would lead to a revocation.
Violating state law with gambling, narcotics or sex offenses or having two instances of serving minors can lead to revocation, which is defined as a three-year suspension.
In the event liquor by-the-drink or package sales are adopted in the county, it would still require a city referendum to expand the provisions of the alcohol ordinance.