Coun­cil OKs work on al­co­hol or­di­nance

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT [email protected]­

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil agreed in a split vote to al­low City At­tor­ney Frank Turner to draft or­di­nances breach­ing the sub­ject of hos­pi­tal­ity drinks and brown bag­ging within the city lim­its.

The split vote, which tal­lied Coun­cilmem­bers Ocie Franklin, Hawnethia Wil­liams and Chris Smith against draft­ing the or­di­nances and Coun­cilmem­bers Josh McKelvey, Ken­neth Morgan and Michael What­ley in fa­vor of draft­ing the or­di­nances, left Mayor Ron­nie John­ston to break the tie and vote in fa­vor of draft­ing or­di­nances for the coun­cil to re­view.

Once drafted, the or­di­nances will go through a first and sec­ond read­ing, in which changes can be made be­fore it is ap­proved. In each read­ing a ma­jor­ity of the coun­cil must vote to con­tinue mov­ing for­ward with the or­di­nance in or­der for it to con­tinue through the process.

To help with draft­ing the or­di­nances, Turner will work with the Cov­ing­ton New­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce to send out a sur­vey to busi­ness own­ers within the city lim­its. Once the sur­veys are re­turned back, Turner will com­pile the in­for­ma­tion into a draft or­di­nance and talk with each of the coun­cilmem­bers to see what they want in the or­di­nance.

Turner said if two coun­cilmem­bers have dif­fer­ing views on some­thing in the or­di­nance, he will pro­vide op­tions for the coun­cil to de­cide be­tween.

Cham­ber looks for mid­dle ground

Cov­ing­ton New­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent Ralph Staffins said he has been ap­proached by 39 dif­fer­ent busi­nesses that are in fa­vor of the change.

“I think it’s my job as the cham­ber pres­i­dent to rep­re­sent those busi­nesses and they have de­cided that this model en­hances their busi­ness model,” he said.

He said he thought it was im­por­tant for the busi­ness own­ers and the coun­cil to find some mid­dle ground in set­ting re­stric­tions within each of the or­di­nance.

“I think there’s things that we could do, or you could do as a coun­cil, to limit this,” he said.

How­ever, Smith did not agree that the cham­ber should take a stance on the is­sue ei­ther way.

“The cham­ber of com­merce tak­ing a stance ei­ther di­rec­tion, I have a lit­tle bit of heart­burn on with some­thing of this mag­ni­tude be­cause it does af­fect the whole city and the city is a big player for the cham­ber,” Smith said.

Smith said he be­lieved the coun­cil has al­ready found mid­dle ground on the al­co­hol is­sue by al­low­ing seven restau­rants on the square to serve al­co­hol, both in­side and on the side­walks out­side their lo­ca­tions.

Busi­ness own­ers ask for reg­u­la­tions

Busi­ness own­ers also spoke in fa­vor of up­dat­ing the or­di­nance and al­low­ing both hos­pi­tal­ity drinks and brown bag­ging in the city.

Angie Blair, owner of Blair on the Square, said she pre­vi­ously of­fered a monthly “Sip and Shop” event at her re­tail busi­ness to bring com­mu­nity to­gether. She said she had set up lim­i­ta­tions for the event, which in­cluded iden­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments, a cut-off limit and some sort of food also be­ing served.

“It’s a mat­ter of choice,” she said. “If you don’t want al­co­hol, you don’t have to par­tic­i­pate.”

Ann Wild­man, owner of WildArt, said since she has not been able to of­fer brown bag­ging at her busi­ness, she has lost more than $3,000 in busi­ness.

“You’re killing me,” she said. “You’re killing me. I have other ci­ties that want me. We’re drag­ging our feet and I know we want to do it right, but you’re killing me.

Not every­one wants change

Also pre­sented in the meet­ing was a pe­ti­tion that in­cluded the sig­na­tures of 81 peo­ple who were not in fa­vor of the or­di­nance change. Wanda Briscoe, who pre­sented the pe­ti­tion, said she feared things get­ting out of con­trol and young peo­ple be­ing ex­posed to al­co­hol at a young age.

“Sev­eral of ‘ Old Cov­ing­ton,’ I call it, have con­tacted me and they’re very con­cerned that we’re chang­ing our town at a rapid pace, too fast,” Smith said. “They want us to slow down the process.”

Smith also said he has spo­ken with busi­ness own­ers on the square who are not in fa­vor of chang­ing the or­di­nance.

“Some­times we have to look at the change whether we want it or not, it’s go­ing to come,” Wil­liams said. “But I also have to look at the im­age that Cov­ing­ton has por­trayed and is por­tray­ing of Cov­ing­ton and what we want to por­tray.

“Born and raised here, I have an im­age of Cov­ing­ton, but nat­u­rally it’s no longer that.”

Wil­liams, who voted against draft­ing the or­di­nances, said she wanted to hear from the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment (CPD).

Franklin, who voted against draft­ing the or­di­nances, said she has also lived in Cov­ing­ton for a long time and seen a lot of change.

“When I de­cided to run for a city coun­cil seat, it wasn’t about me it was about the peo­ple in the City of Cov­ing­ton,” she said. “I know is change is com­ing and growth comes with change but how it comes is very im­por­tant to me.”

She said she be­lieves there is al­ready enough al­co­hol on the square as it is.

Cov­ing­ton doesn’t want to move back­ward

McKelvey said he has been con­tacted by busi­nesses in­ter­ested in com­ing to Cov­ing­ton, but they have com­pletely changed their minds be­cause of the lack of a hos­pi­tal­ity drink or­di­nance.

He said he has heard from a lot of peo­ple on the is­sue and the “over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity” of them are in fa­vor of up­dat­ing the or­di­nances.

McKelvey said he felt it was not the coun­cil’s job to serve as the “kings and queens” of Cov­ing­ton. He en­cour­aged the coun­cil to “get the heck out of the way,” and al­low the busi­nesses to re­spond to the de­mand.

“We’re not putting a sa­loon on ev­ery cor­ner in Cov­ing­ton,” he said. “This stuff has been go­ing on for years and it’s just com­ing to the fore­front be­cause peo­ple are get­ting re­ported and things like that.”

John­ston said he did not un­der­stand tak­ing a step back­wards and not al­low­ing the changes.

“It’s called growth,” John­ston said. “We’re try­ing to get peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to be suc­cess­ful and have a job.

“Is it all be­cause of the al­co­hol? No, it’s not all be­cause of the al­co­hol, but in the world we live in to­day it is part of the puz­zle.”

What­ley, who was born and raised in Cov­ing­ton, said he has seen Cov­ing­ton con­tinue to be one of the only ci­ties in New­ton County to progress. He cred­ited the growth Por­terdale has seen to the ad­di­tion of al­co­hol in restau­rants and bars in the city.

“We’re go­ing to come up and shake this thing down,” he said. “Ei­ther it falls to­gether as a piece in the puz­zle or it shakes down to some­thing we can’t work with.”

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil will meet Mon­day at 6:30 p.m. at city hall for its reg­u­lar meet­ing. As it stands, the al­co­hol or­di­nances are not on the agenda for dis­cus­sion.

Sub­mit­ted art | The Cov­ing­ton News

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