By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Supporters of legalized beer and light wine in New Albany got much of what they hoped for in the ordinance adopted by aldermen at a special meeting on Thursday.
The measure could go into effect as early as April 1.
The ordinance was adopted after voters on Jan. 12 approved legalization of alcoholic beverages of less than 5 percent alcohol.
“We’re pleased,” said Logan Rutledge, one of the effort’s organizers. Several potential sellers were contacting officials the day after the election to inquire about the licensing procedure, he said.
As adopted, the measure allows stores to sell such beverages cold and by the single bottle from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to midnight.
The geographic restriction for sales was set at 250 feet from any school or church, despite a request from First Baptist Church Pastor Rickey Blythe for a 500- or 750-foot buffer. While alcohol normally will be illegal on public property, including sidewalks, it will be allowed during city-sponsored special events in opaque cups.
Opponents got some concessions in the law: To sell for on-premises consumption, restaurants must have seating for at least 40 patrons and must keep their kitchens open for orders throughout serving hours. Drive-through sales and on-premises consumption of packaged beer and light wine are prohibited.
Signage for beer and light wine is limited to the interior of retailers, and neither advertising nor stacks of the beverages may be visible from the street.
Sunday sales and the 250-foot buffer passed only by a 3-2 margin. Asked by Ward 2 Alderman Johnny Anderson to veto those elements, Mayor Tim Kent declined.
“I believe in majority rule … even though I may disagree,” he said.
The ordinance must undergo a public hearing, set for March 2, on its zoning. Unless changed after that, it will allow beer and light wine sales only in C-1 (downtown commercial) and C-2 (general commercial) areas 30 days later, on April 1.
After final passage, the ordinance will be submitted to the State Tax Commission, which is expected to grant approval. Prospective retailers must then be licensed by the commission and the city.