Liquor law limbo

Published 11:21 am Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Atmore business owner Jason Ward wants to add a new establishment to those located on Trammell Street, but Mayor Jim Staff and the Atmore City Council have twice denied his request to open a package store in downtown Atmore.

Now, Ward says he is being treated unfairly, but Staff says the city’s answer would be the same for anyone wanting to sell liquor in that area of town.

“We don’t want it in downtown,” Staff said. “If he were serving food at a restaurant it would be a little different, but this would be a liquor store for off premises use.”

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While Ward says the business would be an improvement to the downtown area, where businesses that sold liquor have been located in the past, Staff says it would create an unsafe environment in its proposed location and the city is saying no for that reason.

“That was a different time,” Staff said of former establishments. “There are hair salons on Trammell and there are elderly ladies that are in there after dark, That’s not the kind of environment we want for them.”

While Atmore’s municipal code regarding alcoholic beverage licenses states that the city may not deny a license simply because the governing body does not want a business of that type located in the municipality, it does allow for the city council to deny a request if the denial is “grounded in the municipality’s protection of the health, safety and public welfare of the community.”

Staff said preventing the kind of problems the city has dealt with in the past at package stores and bars is a protection of the town’s welfare.

Staff also pointed to the store’s location within 300 feet of a church on Ridgeley as a violation of the alcohol code.

Staff and District 5 City Councilman Chris Harrison said there is also currently a 180-day moratorium on package stores, adult bookstores and tattoo parlors in Atmore while the council considers labeling Atmore’s downtown area a historic district.

Staff said the first denial of the license was due to an incomplete application, while the second was because of the moratorium and safety.

Ward himself said many of his neighboring business owners have signed a petition pledging their support for his endeavor, but Staff said that does not change the fact that the store would create an unsafe environment.

Staff said Ward can apply again for a license when the moratorium is lifted and said the council would consider granting approval were the business to be located in a different part of town.