Liquor could be on sale by July 4

By J. Lynn West

New Albany aldermen took the next step in the process of legalizing sale of wine and liquor inside the city limits Tuesday but it will be at least a couple of months before anyone can sip a glass of wine in a restaurant.

The city board unanimously gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that will be required to make the result of the March 9 vote effective, but City Attorney Regan Russell noted that the ordinance wording could still be modified. A public hearing on the proposed ordinance was set for the next city board meeting May 7 and aldermen may vote on it then or ask for it to be rewritten if they feel what happens in the hearing justifies it.

If they vote to enact the ordinance May 7 it still will not take effect for 30 days and only then can applicants expect action from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission concerning permits to sell alcohol. The application process involves considerable paperwork and background checks and the ABC tells applicants to expect processing to take four to six weeks.

Attorney Russell said the ordinance was basically written to reflect state law already in force and to track the city’s beer sales regulations as much as feasible. While local officials have some control over aspects of the sale of beer and light wines, the ABC restricts most conditions governing sale of liquor and wine.

One key aspect of the ordinance is that both on-premises and package sales at stores will be permitted. State law does restrict sales to a minimum of 400 feet from any church, school, kindergarten or funeral home (100 feet in a commercially or industrially zoned area).

A package store may sell between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. except on Sundays and Christmas Day.

An establishment with an on-premises permit can sell from 10 a.m. to midnight, except on Sundays. This includes hotels, restaurants, clubs and caterers. There is a slight extension for New Year’s Eve.

The city will have the right to petition the ABC to change prohibited hours and days as long as the change does not supersede state law.

Brown-bagging is illegal in that alcohol cannot be consumed in a commercial establishment unless it has an on-premises permit. The ordinance does not appear to address whether liquor can be brought into the establishment rather than purchased there, but that may be covered in referenced state law.

It will be illegal to have an open liquor or wine container in one’s possession on any public property or inside a motor vehicle.

Possession of liquor is completely prohibited inside any business where the owner has notices posted adequately that no alcoholic beverages are allowed. It is also prohibited on any public playground or park including the sportxplex, fire or police station, any school property or facility used by the schools, any library or museum, any property in use by the Union County Fair or any property owned, leased or operated by the city, except as specifically allowed by order of the board of aldermen.

It is illegal for anyone under age 21 to present false information to attempt to obtain alcohol or enter a place where liquor is sold and they otherwise would be prohibited from entering.

A wide range of activities defined as lewd are prohibited on the premises of a permit holder, as is any disorderly conduct or disturbance of the peace.

Anyone selling alcohol inside the city must also have a minimum of one million dollars in general liability insurance.

Copies of the proposed ordinance will be available at City Hall.