Squires chart course to regulate package liquor stores
With 71 percent of voters nodding package liquor stores in Mt. Juliet on the November ballot, city commissioners charted new ground Monday night trying to establish regulations to govern them.
On the heels of a workshop on the issue of establishing package liquor store regulations, city commissioners spent a marathon of time honing in are several key aspects of amending Chapter 4 of the Mt. Juliet Municipal Code to set guidelines for potential liquor store owners who want to set up shop within the city limits.
Vice Mayor James Maness said that it was important for those wishing to open a liquor store in Mt. Juliet to have a "vested interest" in the community. After much discussion, they voted that a potential liquor store owner had to be a resident of Wilson County for five years or a resident of the city for two years.
They wanted further research before second reading on how to amend the zoning ordinance and how far away from schools liquor stores will be allowed. They discussed different types of schools such as elementary, high school and nursery schools.
"We need to get an exact definition of 'school' from our attorney before second reading," said Mayor Ed Hagerty.
A three mile separation seemed to be the preferred distance in this initial discussion.
Regulating exactly how large a liquor store can be and if it is a free standing building, within a strip mall, owned or leased were bones of contention and left for second reading.
They discussed what would be a reasonable minimum and maximum size, with 3,000 square feet an average estimate for a liquor store. Nothing was decided, and again, they said they would ask the city attorney to "craft an amendment to ensure a mini market doesn't set up a liquor store."
How many liquor stores would be allowed to open in the 20 square miles that is Mt. Juliet was discussed as well. They noted that 71 percent of voters were in favor of them.
"But that does not mean that 100 percent of that 71 percent will use them," noted District 3 City Commissioner Art Giles.
He said that some of those voters just wanted the tax revenue stream the liquor stores will generate. He said he didn't think there needed to be a liquor store on every corner just because the majority of voters were in favor.
Hagerty said he envisioned four liquor stores; one in the south, north, middle and Shiloh Plaza (near the Davidson County line) areas of the city.
They eventually voted to allow one liquor store per 8,000 in population. There are approximately 25,000 residents in Mt. Juliet.
They tried to hash out whether or not they should mandate high tech video surveillance systems at the stores. Mt. Juliet Police Chief Andy Garrett said he thought it would be fine, but this won't necessarily ensure there won't be any crimes at the stores. No vote was taken on this element at first reading with their request for more time to research and decide.
Closing time for the liquor stores was hashed out. The state of Tennessee mandates that liquor stores must close by 11 p.m. However, the squires disagreed and felt that was too late. Hagerty noted that if someone was coming to buy liquor near 11 p.m. they "must be binging."
They voted to close them at 9 p.m.
They again deferred to the city attorney on how exactly will they decide on the few who will be allowed to open a liquor store in the city.
They questioned how to make it fair if there was an influx of applications, noting that some sort of "lottery" to decide was illegal.
First come first served seemed to be their initial thought, but before second reading in two weeks the city's attorney will advise.
They unanimously passed the much amended skeletal version of this ordinance to regulate package liquor stores with plans to revisit portions of the ordinance with research supplied by the city's legal department.
Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org