2-4: Cov­ing­ton votes down pro­posed al­co­hol or­di­nance

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT jgutknecht@cov­news.com

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to nearly two hours of pub­lic com­ments in a meet­ing that was stand­ing room only, the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil voted down the first read­ing of the pro­posed al­co­hol or­di­nances in three 2-4 votes, with Coun­cil­men Josh McKelvey and Michael What­ley as the only two in-fa­vor votes and Coun­cilmem­bers Chris Smith, Ken­neth Mor­gan, Hawnethia Wil­liams and Ocie Franklin vot­ing against.

This vote comes af­ter more than two months of dis­cus­sion about the or­di­nances, a sur­vey of Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce mem­bers within the city lim­its and a town hall meet­ing. The pro­posed or­di­nances were bro­ken down into three sec­tions - (1) cus­tomers can bring their own beer or wine into busi­nesses, such as art shops; (2) busi­nesses could pro­vide amenity drinks to vis­i­tors of their busi­ness with­out the re­quire­ment of mak­ing a pur­chase; or (3) busi­nesses, such as hair sa­lons, could pro­vide al­co­hol to pay­ing cus­tomers a part of a ser­vice pack­age.

Pub­lic speaks out in fa­vor, against

With nearly 20 peo­ple stand­ing up to voice their opin­ions on the pro­posed or­di­nances prior to the first vote, the coun­cil was able to hear both sides of the ar­gu­ment, with the ma­jor­ity of the crowd speak­ing in-fa­vor or the or­di­nances’ ap­proval.

For­mer Mayor Sam Ram­sey, who also owns Ram­sey Fur­ni­ture Com­pany, said he has been able to sell fur­ni­ture with­out pro­vid­ing al­co­hol for many years. He urged the coun­cil to vote against the is­sue.

Anne Wild­mon, owner of WildArt, said she has lost thou­sands of dol­lars af­ter be­ing told she could no longer host paint par­ties where cus­tomers could bring their own al­co­hol.

Wanda Briscoe said she was very con­cerned about the is­sues. She also pre­sented the coun­cil with a pe­ti­tion with more than 400 sig­na­tures of peo­ple against the pro­posed or­di­nances.

Judy Her­nan­dez, of Shelvie Jean Bou­tique, said al­low­ing busi­nesses to serve al­co­hol would not “burn the streets down in Cov­ing­ton.”

Becky Ram­sey said the worst rea­son the coun­cil could ap­prove the or­di­nances would be just be­cause it is al­lowed some­where else.

Aaron Brooks pointed out that busi­nesses in Cov­ing­ton would be able to use events with al­co­hol served as a mar­ket­ing tool to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves.

Coun­cil pro­poses changes, finds flaws

McKelvey pro­posed changes to the or­di­nances, which in­cluded the num­ber of times per month it would be al­lowed and amount of al­co­hol.

“I think all of us, as a coun­cil, need to have a se­ri­ous hard look at our­selves and say, ‘Do we sup­port small busi­nesses, do we want a thriv­ing Cov­ing­ton, and do we want young pro­fes­sion­als to look at us and not laugh at us, and want to come here and be a part of Cov­ing­ton,’” McKelvey said.

What­ley said his only con­cern was the well-be­ing of the City of Cov­ing­ton.

“I ain’t got but one dog in this fight, and that’s to vote to make the City of Cov­ing­ton a bet­ter place,” he said.

What­ley, who has served on the coun­cil for 20 years, told The Cov­ing­ton News Mon­day night’s turnout was ei­ther the largest or close to the largest turnout he’s ever seen for a coun­cil meet­ing.

Smith said he ap­pre­ci­ated the pub­lic com­ment brought forth, but he would vote against the or­di­nance, which is con­sis­tent with how he has voted on the is­sue in the past. He said he thought the or­di­nances were “prob­lem­atic and flawed.”

Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston said had the vote come down to a tie, he would have bro­ken the tie with an in-fa­vor vote.

“It is not my job to reg­u­late your morals,” he said.

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil will meet again Aug. 21 for a reg­u­lar work ses­sion and meet­ing. Had the first read­ing of the or­di­nances passed, the sec­ond read­ing would have been on the agenda for that meet­ing. There is noth­ing stop­ping the coun­cil from re­ex­am­in­ing the is­sue again in the fu­ture.

Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil voted down the first read­ing of the pro­posed al­co­hol or­di­nances with three 2-4 votes.

Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

For­mer Mayor Sam Ram­sey speaks out against the pro­posed al­co­hol or­di­nances Mon­day night dur­ing the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil meet­ing.

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