War on fun?

City of Cov­ing­ton says pool and hard liquor don’t mix

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - By Rachel Oswald

Though it has been on the books for some time, the city of Cov­ing­ton only re­cently be­gan en­forc­ing an al­co­hol or­di­nance which re­quired the re­moval of all “ma­chines op­er­ated for amuse­ment” from bars serv­ing hard liquor.

The forced re­moval of pool ta­bles, dart boards, pin­ball ma­chines, video game ma­chines, etc. has not gone over well with lo­cal bar own­ers who say the re­moval of the ma­chines has greatly harmed their busi­nesses.

“It de­stroyed my busi­ness. It to­tally de­stroyed it,” said Shirley Spencer, owner of the Dou­ble G’s Sports Bar and Grill on U.S. High­way 278.

“I think it’s an­ti­quated. I think it’s not even in the 21st cen­tury. It’s not re­ally fair to the cit­i­zens of Cov­ing­ton. They have a right to en­ter­tain­ment.”

Spencer gave up her hard liquor li­cense ear­lier this week so that she could have her pool ta­bles back. She will now only sell beer and wine in her bar.

Be­fore she had to re­move her pool ta­bles and dart boards over a month ago, Spencer said her es­tab­lish­ment was reg­u­larly filled with seven pool teams and three dart teams who prac­ticed at the Dou­ble G’s, but that once the game

— Deb­bie Har­ris Owner, ‘It’s Five o’clock Some­where’

ma­chines were re­moved she saw pa­tron­age drop off sig­nif­i­cantly.

“ Some peo­ple, that’s all they want to do, have a few beers, shoot pool and shoot darts. That’s their en­joy­ment,” Spencer said. “ The peo­ple are very lonely; they don’t want to go sit at a restau­rant or a bar where there’s noth­ing to look at but a TV.”

It’s Five O’clock Some­where owner Deb­bie Har­ris — who opened the es­tab­lish­ment in the Kmart shop­ping cen­ter on U.S. High­way 278 in April with her hus­band Mike — says her bar has been with­out dart boards and video games for five weeks now.

The loss of the dart boards — which drew eight lo­cal dart teams to her bar for com­pe­ti­tions on Wed­nes­day nights and also to prac­tice through­out the week — has re­sulted in a weekly short­fall of be­tween 50 to 100 reg­u­lar pa­trons Har­ris said.

Spencer and Har­ris both said that they have seen their cus­tomers leave their bars to shoot pool and play darts at bars in Cony­ers which does al­low the gam­ing ma­chines.

A large pool bal­cony at T.J.’s Rockin Coun­try Bar and Grill on Old City Pond Road sits empty as well. Op­er­a­tions man­ager Terry John­son said he had had the bal­cony built specif­i­cally to ac­com­mo­date four pool ta­bles for his large bar/con­cert hall, but that the bal­cony will likely re­main empty un­less the city amends its or­di­nance be­cause he does not want to give up his liquor li­cense ei­ther.

Ac­cord­ing to John­son, it was his plans for the pool bal­cony which touched the whole thing off. When city of­fi­cials in­formed him that he wasn’t al­lowed to have pool ta­bles if he was go­ing to be serv­ing liquor, he pointed out that sev­eral other city bars also had pool ta­bles and were serv­ing liquor.

How­ever Spencer said she was not made aware of that part of the or­di­nance when she bought the bar and grill two and a half years ago when it was then known as Fat Boy’s.

“I guess I didn’t read it. I bought the bar as it was. He (the pre­vi­ous owner) op­er­ated it as a bar, and it had that stuff in it so I didn’t think any­thing about it,” Spencer said.

Spencer isn’t alone in her con­fu­sion over the or­di­nances.

The bulk of the city’s 30page al­co­hol or­di­nance was writ­ten in 1982 when a June pub­lic ref­er­en­dum was passed which al­lowed the sale of al­co­holic bev­er­ages by the drink for on- premises con­sump­tion.

The city of Cov­ing­ton doesn’t specif­i­cally have any or­di­nances re­lated to bars. The or­di­nance ex­pressly per­mits the sale of al­co­holic bev­er­ages for on-site con­sump­tion to only restau­rants, ho­tel lounges, private clubs and golf clubs. Un­til now what the pub­lic would com­monly as­sume to be bar-type es­tab­lish­ments have fallen un­der the or­di­nance um­brella of restau­rants.

The or­di­nance re­quires that the pro­ceeds from food sales to­tal at least 51 per­cent of an es­tab­lish­ment’s prof­its while al­co­hol sales can­not to­tal more than 49 per­cent.

The or­di­nance states that “the serv­ing of such meals and food shall be the prin­ci­pal busi­ness con­ducted, with the serv­ing of al­co­holic bev­er­ages to be con­sumed on the premises as only in­ci­den­tal thereto.”

The or­di­nance also re­quires that all al­co­hol sales cease be­tween the hours of 12:45 a.m. and 8 a.m. This is one hour ear­lier than Cony­ers’ al­co­hol or­di­nance which al­lows for the sale of al­co­hol at bars un­til 2 a.m.

City of­fi­cials in­ter­viewed said they could not speak au­thor­i­ta­tively on the or­di­nances be­cause they were writ­ten prior to their em­ploy­ment with the city.

“Any­one wish­ing to chal­lenge it can go be­fore the mayor and coun­cil,” said Cov­ing­ton City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton. “Un­til that hap­pens, we’re go­ing to en­force the or­di­nance.”

A chal­lenge to the or­di­nances def­i­nitely seems to be brew­ing among lo­cal bar own­ers and the pa­trons who fre­quent their es­tab­lish­ments.

“ I think it’s an­ti­quated. I think it’s not even in the 21st cen­tury,” said Har­ris of the city’s or­di­nance. “ It’s not re­ally fair to the cit­i­zens of Cov­ing­ton. They have a right to en­ter­tain­ment.”

Har­ris said she was cur­rently in dis­cus­sions with her at­tor­ney as to the best way to go about amend­ing the city’s or­di­nances so as to al­low for the pres­ence of pool ta­bles, and dart boards in es­tab­lish­ments which also sell liquor.

Spencer spec­u­lated that the lack of a proper bar or­di­nance which would al­low for pool ta­bles and the like could re­sult in bar own­ers tak­ing their busi­ness to Cony­ers.

“I think the peo­ple of Cov­ing­ton should be able to vote and voice their opin­ion about it, not just a se­lected few,” Spencer said. “I’ve been talk­ing to peo­ple and I’m try­ing real hard to see if we can get it done. I want to do it the le­gal and the right way.

“This city’s grow­ing and I don’t want to take my busi­ness some­where else but a lot of peo­ple will sooner or later, even I will,” Spencer said.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Lin­ing it up: Dou­ble G’s Sports Bar and Grill owner Shirley Spencer shoots a round of bil­liards with her team The Drifters 8 dur­ing a weekly pool tour­na­ment at the lo­cal Cov­ing­ton es­tab­lish­ment. Shirley made the de­ci­sion to bring back her bil­liards ta­bles and stop serv­ing liquor in her busi­ness due to the city’s or­di­nance ban­ning coin-op­er­ated ma­chines from any es­tab­lish­ment that serves liquor.

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