Thursday, October 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Ward prepares for private club

Leader staff writer

The Ward City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an ordinance that will regulate private clubs that might move into town.

The council, while meeting as a committee on a proposed sales tax for local projects, also continued to discuss whether or not a tax is needed and if residents would approve a half-cent or one-cent sales tax.

The city is preparing itself for a planned private, alcohol-serving club by introducing an ordinance with rules and regulations on where the dispensing, not selling, of alcohol can take place.

After months of work, a three-member committee introduced the ordinance that would allow private clubs to be located only in areas zoned C1, town-centered commercial property, or C2, highway commercial property.

“We’re not restricting them to C1 only but to C1 or C2 with feet restrictions,” said Alderman Charles Gastineau, the committee chair.

“I think we’re okay on that because it falls into the adult industry,” he said, adding there are places within the city that meet the criteria.

Ordinance 0-2007-05, modeled after Jonesboro’s private-club ordinance, has been approved by the city attorney and the Municipal League and had its first reading Monday night. It will come before the council in November for a second reading.
Work for this new ordinance was generated after Winthrop Ray Knight, owner of Dude’s Place, applied for an Alcohol Beverage Commission private club liquor license in January for an establishment he hoped to bring to Ward residents.

ABC denied his liquor license application, but Knight has the right to appeal the decision, although he not done that yet.
By law, only private clubs are allowed to serve alcohol in a dry area, which is why Knight applied for an ABC license for his family-oriented, sit-down restaurant where patrons would have the option of having an alcoholic beverage with their meal, much like Chili’s in Jacksonville.

As for a proposed sales tax to pay for fire code enforcement and an animal shelter, Gastineau, who was not present at the first committee meeting, echoed Alderman Ginger Tarno’s negative sentiments on the matter.

“Do we want it? Why? How will it (a tax) create progress? Sell it to me?” he asked fellow members.

Alderman Don Howard, the committee chair, said the council would not pass a tax without going to the residents first.

“We need to give them more information than just asking for it right out,” Howard said. Ward water customers might soon see a questionnaire with their bill to collect their thoughts on a sales tax and see if they would be receptive to it.

Mayor Art Brooke will meet with the city’s auditor later this month and will ask him to determine where the city’s financial shortfalls are and where any income generated from a sales tax, whether it is a half-cent or a one-cent tax, should be used.
The committee will continue to meet monthly on the issue until it is resolved.