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Rincon works on new alcohol laws
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Rincon City Council members are expected to get the first reading of a new alcohol ordinance at their meeting Monday.

Council members went over the draft ordinance — which regulates liquor by the drink sales —at a workshop Monday night, trying to iron out the distances establishments that sell alcohol should be from schools and churches. The ordinance covers all aspects of Rincon’s laws governing alcohol sales and uses.

“We are trying to merge our existing ordinances,” Council member Ken Baxley said.

The draft ordinance stipulates that restaurants wishing to sell mixed drinks must make at least 55 percent of their profits from the sale of food. Baxley pointed out that Applebee’s said in its 2006 annual report that only 20 percent of its profits nationwide came from the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Other proposals in the ordinance included the bar area in a restaurant cannot take up more than 20 percent of the seating area and there must be a minimum seating requirement of 25 people.

Offenses for penalties are up to $1,000 and a three-day suspension of a license for a first offense, $2,500 and a 10-day suspension for a second offense and a $5,000 fine and a 90-day suspension for a third offense. Revocation of the license is automatic after the fourth offense.

But City Attorney Raymond Dickey warned that the offenses could be as minor as not reporting or filing paperwork on time.

“We’re going to put some language at the beginning for some flexibility,” he said.

Still, council members wanted severe penalties in place.

“The punishment should fit the crime,” said council member Scott Morgan. “If they are selling to minors, stick it to them.”

Also under consideration are license fees. As proposed, they are $1,000 for beer and wine and $2,000 for liquor.

Dickey said the state removed the provision limiting the distance between establishments with alcohol and churches, but there still must be at least 100 yards between those businesses and schools. The draft ordinance calls for alcohol-selling businesses to be 200 yards from schools and 100 yards from churches.

Council members also questioned how to treat churches that have day cares or pre-schools.

“So many churches and day cares have preschools, you could zone out the whole town,” Baxley said.

But that underscored a concern among council members that it may be difficult to fit in restaurants that want to serve mixed drinks in certain areas.

“It could impact us more than Springfield or the county because of our commercial (sector) and the commercial corridor,” Mayor Ken Lee said.

The city is working on its zoning ordinances that would remove churches from the general commercial classification.

“LaMeisha Hunter has worked hard to come up with some new uses in the zoning districts,” Baxley said.