City agrees to amend al­co­hol or­di­nances

Coun­cil aims to level play­ing field

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

At a re­cent work ses­sion, the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil came to an agree­ment that the city’s or­di­nance should be amended to treat all es­tab­lish­ments serv­ing al­co­hol equally re­gard­less of the type of al­co­hol they served.

Cur­rently es­tab­lish­ments serv­ing hard al­co­hol are pro­hib­ited from hav­ing pool ta­bles, dart boards and video games on their premises. The en­force­ment of that pro­hi­bi­tion this sum­mer by the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment re­sulted in many dis­grun­tled restau­rant/ bar own­ers re­port­ing a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in their rev­enues since the re­moval of the games.

Wed­nes­day’s dis­cus­sion on amend­ing the al­co­hol or­di­nance was one of the first dis­cus­sions in what is an­tic­i­pated to be a long process as the city plans to com­pletely re­write its al­co­hol or­di­nance — which now mea­sures nearly 30 pages — with the in­tent of mak­ing the or­di­nance more mod­ern, rea­son­able and con­cise.

Mayor Kim Carter said the city should have no dis­tinc­tion in con­sid­er­ing the type of al­co­hol sold, adding “al­co­hol is al­co­hol.”

The city coun­cil also de­bated rewrit­ing the al­co­hol or­di­nance to al­low the pres­ence of es­tab­lish­ments op­er­at­ing specif­i­cally as bars. Cur­rently there is no or­di­nance al­low­ing bars in the city. Busi­nesses serv­ing al­co­hol by the drink are re­quired to draw at least 51 per­cent of their rev­enue from the sale of food. De­spite the pro­hi­bi­tion of bars, sev­eral es­tab­lish­ments in the city come very close to op­er­at­ing what could rea­son­ably be con­sid­ered as bars.

Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Chief Stacey Cot­ton said the hard al­co­hol or­di­nance was orig­i­nally writ­ten to keep bars out of the city. Cot­ton noted his de­part­ment re­ceived 200 calls for ser­vice last year from five es­tab­lish­ments that he said op­er­ate as bars in the city as well as a large num­ber of DUI ar­rests from pa­trons leav­ing those es­tab­lish­ments.

“It is an im­pact,” Cot­ton said.

Carter said it was in­evitable that the po­lice de­part­ment would re­ceive drunken dis­or­derly con­duct calls.

“That’s been true of al­co­hol since the be­gin­ning of time and we’re not go­ing to leg­is­late that,” Carter said.

Coun­cil­woman Ocie Franklin ques­tioned why the po­lice de­part­ment had only re­cently en­forced the pool ta­ble and hard al­co­hol or­di­nance, which has been on the books since the 1980s.

“As [com­plaints] have arisen, we have dealt with them,” said Cot­ton, adding the po­lice de­part­ment is only made aware of in­frac­tions in the al­co­hol or­di­nance when they re­ceive a com­plaint. “We’ve en­forced ev­ery rule in that book when we’ve re­ceived a com­plaint.”

City Man­ager Steve Hor­ton said he was con­cerned that if the coun­cil rewrote the or­di­nance to al­low for bars, the city would lose the abil­ity to pro­hibit cer­tain prac­tices from tak­ing place such as mud wrestling and bikini con­tests.

Carter sug­gested the coun­cil con­sider amend­ing the min­i­mum food re­quire­ment in the or­di­nance to al­low for a greater per­cent­age of rev­enues to come from the sale of al­co­hol in­stead of rewrit­ing the or­di­nance to al­low for bars.

Carter also sug­gested that the city amend the or­di­nance to re­quire es­tab­lish­ments serv­ing al­co­hol to have a min­i­mum num­ber of items on their food menu, to have a min­i­mum num­ber of ta­bles and chairs and a max­i­mum num­ber of square feet set aside for dance space.

Carter said she wanted to see the or­di­nance amended to al­low restau­rants serv­ing al­co­hol to have out­door din­ing.

“I would like to see us have out­door din­ing on the side­walk,” Carter said.

The coun­cil is also close to com­ing to an agree­ment re­gard­ing the time pe­riod pro­hibit­ing con­victed felons from work­ing in es­tab­lish­ments serv­ing al­co­hol.

Hor­ton said it prob­a­bly made more sense to pro­hibit con­victed felons from work­ing in es­tab­lish­ments serv­ing al­co­hol un­til they had com­pleted any pro­ba­tion re­quire­ments.

Carter sug­gested that back­ground checks be re­quired for all em­ploy­ees work­ing at es­tab­lish­ments serv­ing al­co­hol.

Other than the con­sen­sus on hard al­co­hol and the em­ploy­ment of con­victed felons, the coun­cil did not come to agree­ment on the other items dis­cussed in amend­ing the al­co­hol or­di­nance.

“I say leave it like it is,” said Coun­cil­man John Howard.

Coun­cil­woman Janet Good­man said, “I don’t know what I want, but I don’t want what we got.”

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