County delays alcohol sales discussion

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The discussion on whether to extend alcohol beverage sales hours from a midnight cutoff to a 2 a.m. cutoff is being delayed until the Levy County Commission meeting on April 2.
The decision came during Tuesday’s regular meeting where a workshop on proposed changes to the county’s alcohol ordinance had been scheduled. But that was called off after some citizens protested the timing of the meeting — 1 p.m. — would force citizens who wanted to address the issue to take time off from work.
The workshop, where no official commission action could be taken, was meant to be an opportunity for discussion by the commission on the proposal and whether to go forward with it and hold a public hearing in evening hours where the public would have a chance to address the final ordinance wording. While the public can attend workshops it usually is not an opportunity for comment and no official votes can be taken. But the commission could allow comment.
“It was for the board to discuss in detail the ordinance,” said County Coordinator Fred Moody. “But some people voiced opposition to the timing.”
Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Cheifland (R-District 4) said the workshop was scheduled “to see if there was enough interest in it.” Bell said he received six calls, that were evenly divided on the issue of lengthening the sales hours.
Clarence “Sonny” Innsbrucker, owner of the Sunray Tavern in Morriston, said he was asking for the change in hours to compete with businesses in other counties.
“All the counties surrounding us have it, why not us?,” he told the commission. “I’m willing to do whatever we need to do for this.”
Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) said he was in favor of holding the workshop first before scheduling a public hearing because holding an evening hearing entails costs for legal advertising, having security for the hearing and keeping the courthouse open at night.
“We should not have a hearing and waste money and everybody’s time,” if there is little interest in changing the ordinance, Meeks said.
Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (D-District 5) said he was not in favor of changing the ordinance and Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3 ) said while he “is not real crazy about making any changes. I am not opposed too a workshop and I am not opposed to having a public hearing.”
While Bell said the discussion sounded “like a straw poll” County Attorney Anne Bast Brown said she had not heard a consensus on the issue.
The commission finally decided to hold another discussion whether and when to have a workshop and, possibly, a public hearing at its April 2 regular meeting at 9 a.m.