County looks at drinking after midnight

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The public will get its first say on a proposal to extend alcohol sales beyond midnight in the unincorporated county areas during a workshop on March 5 at 1 p.m.

The Levy County Commission scheduled the workshop after receiving a briefing from County Attorney Anne Bast Brown. Brown presented the board with a proposed ordinance to change the ban on alcohol sales, consumption and service between midnight and 7 a.m. to only between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. 

The change in the ordinance would affect only three restaurants in the unincorporated county area — Willard’s Tavern and Sun Ray Tavern in the Morriston area, and Beef O’Brady’s north of Chiefland. The change was requested by Tom Trammell, the owner of Willard’s at a December commission meeting. 

Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) said he favors a midnight closing on Saturday. “I think midnight on Saturday night is a good idea.”

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4), who owns a number of restaurants, said there are some pay-per-view sports events, which people go to a business to watch, that air beyond midnight and the midnight closing can affect a business’ ability to attract customers. 

Bell cited the city of Chiefland’s ban on Sunday sales as putting a damper on Superbowl parties at restaurants and sports bars. “They miss out on Super Sunday,” he said. 

Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3) asked if the county could require the places selling alcohol under the extended hours to hire off-duty law enforcement officers for security. 

“If there’s a fight he’s going to have to send deputies from Bronson and Chiefland,” and elsewhere,” Joyner said pointing to Sheriff Bobby McCallum. 

McCallum said most of the cases of alcohol-related cases are in the incorporated areas that do not have their own police force — like Bronson. 

Bell said the hirings would have no effect because experience has shown him “they’re timing it to be liquored up” by closing. 

Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) said he believed in his father’s rule to be home by midnight “because nothing good happens after midnight.”

The commission’s lone Democrat, Danny Stevens of Williston, where there are alcohol sales on Sunday, said, “I actually think Levy County does best by following state law” as it does now.