Pat Marple, one of the most outspoken opponents of alcohol sales in Williamsburg, was one of roughly a dozen people Monday asking the Williamsburg City Council not to approve Sunday alcohol sales.
About a dozen people attended the Williamsburg City Council meeting Monday evening in opposition of a provision in the proposed alcohol ordinance which would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays after 2 p.m.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposed ordinance during a special called meeting which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at city hall.
"Sunday is a special day set aside for Christians as a day of rest and a day of worship," said Pat Marple reading from a letter he sent to council members and the mayor last week. Marple headed up opposition to the March alcohol referendum, which voters approved by 14 votes.
Marple noted that schools, libraries, banks and government offices are all closed on Sundays.
"What good reason is there to sell alcohol on the Lord’s Day?" Marple asked.
Marple asked the council to consider three questions when making its decision.
Will Sunday alcohol sales change the community for the better? Will Sunday alcohol sales improve the quality of life for the citizens of Williamsburg? Will Sunday sales help preserve the heritage of our community?
"We ask you to prayerfully consider the answers to these questions as you decide what is best for our community?" Marple said.
The city council held the first reading of the 18-page ordinance Monday evening which required no vote.
City attorney Greta Price spent about 14 minutes going over the ordinance which includes provisions prohibiting people routinely arrested for alcohol offenses from being served alcohol among other details.
Council members didn’t give any indications during Monday’s meeting on how they would vote Wednesday.
Mayor Roddy Harrison said he doesn’t know whether there will be a roomful of people present for Wednesday’s vote.
"There could be one. There could be 100. Everybody knows what’s in there. We will take the vote and go from there," he added.
Harrison said that he wasn’t surprised by Monday’s turnout nor the opposition of those present against Sunday alcohol sales.
"I respect their views. I see their point," Harrison said. "The reason I put it in the ordinance is because of the stuff I found out. I called restaurants. I called around other towns and other cities. I respect all their questions, and I thought they had some really good questions."
Questions and answers
During the meeting, Marple asked whether Harrison foresees a need for additional law enforcement because of alcohol sales.
Harrison said that he is not aware of other towns having to increase police patrols after enacting similar ordinances.
Price noted that statistics show that there are more DUI arrests in dry counties than in wet counties.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said that 97 percent of the driving while under the influence arrests his department makes are drug rather than alcohol related.
Amanda Miller, a local nurse, disputed those statistics.
"Those numbers are not accurate," she said.
Miller said she has personally pulled drunk drivers out of creeks and done CPR on them only to have them picked up by family members without having been arrested.
She also had an uncle who lost an arm driving back home from a trip to a bootlegger on a trail.
Marple noted that the only existing restaurant in town that meets the qualifications to serve alcohol now and has indicated it plans to sell alcohol is Hong Kong Buffet which is located off US25W between Main Street and Cumberland Avenue.
He said there are a lot of traffic accidents in that area already which he feels may increase if alcohol is sold there because drinking decreases reaction time.
Marple asked the city not to wait until somebody got killed there before putting in a traffic light.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Stanfill noted there needs to be a traffic light there any way.
Harrison said that the city has tried to get a traffic light installed there in the past, but that they can’t get the state to install one at the intersection of Cumberland Avenue and US25W.
He said that he would see if alcohol sales would serve as a trump card to get the state to install a traffic light at the intersection.
Williamsburg resident Bill Johnson noted that limiting where people can enter and leave the highway in the shopping area where Hong Kong Buffet is located could help reduce the number of accidents there.
Johnson asked what control the city would have to keep restaurants, which serve alcohol from advertising on billboards outside the city limits.
Harrison said that the city could only control what happens inside the city.
Harrison said that the 7 percent license fee was based on what surrounding areas charge.
The ordinance allows no dancing, karokee, pool tables, etc.
The ordinance calls for restaurants not to sell alcohol to people that the courts determine are not taking care of their family.
Council member Troy Sharpe noted the notification could be done by the courts or any police officer.
No strobes or neon signs can be used to advertise alcohol sales.
If the council votes down the ordinance because of the Sunday sales provisions, then Harrison said the council would probably have to schedule two additional special meetings in order to pass a version of it which doesn’t include Sunday alcohol sales.
If the city doesn’t have an ordinance in place by May 20 then the regulations would be the minimal state requirements until a city ordinance is passed.
Other opposition voiced
Retired District Judge Blaine Stewart noted that the question of whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales is one only the city council can answer.
"As a result of this really large 14-vote majority you have to vote for some alcohol consumption. I want to urge you to make it as few hours as possible and to make your fees as high as possible," Stewart said.
Stewart said that the rouse of restaurants not coming to town because they can’t sell on Sunday is "pure bull."
"The truth is I have never heard of anybody that sold liquor in my life who would give up selling it six days a week to sell it one more," he said.
He also contended that allowing alcohol sales for part of the day Sunday was as bad, if not worse, than selling it for the whole day.
"It gives the signal to the youth of our community that liquor is good. Those of us that want to have a good time want to do it every day of the week, but just these old bunch of fuddy duddy – religious people – don’t want us to have any fun," Stewart said.
Bill Woodward, who helps run Emergency Christian Ministries, the local homeless shelter, noted that a lot of people have lost everything they have due to alcoholism.
"It would probably put a greater burden on us at the shelter with the funding that we do have to have more so of that," he said. "I hope that you would say no to it on Sunday. I wish it didn’t come into the area … Please vote the right way. It will be appreciated and I think the Lord will reward you all some day."
Johnson asked council members to think about the children when making their decision.
"I know anywhere that sells it underage availability is pretty common. I hope it never gets like that here, whether it be legal sales to underage people or bootlegging sells to underage people," Johnson said.
In other business, the council:
• Held the second reading of an ordinance renewing the payroll tax agreement with Whitley County which is unchanged. Williamsburg keeps 75 percent of the occupation tax revenue collected in the city.
• Changed the name of Lakeview Drive to Lakeview Lane. The street had historically been named Lakeview Lane and residents requested a change to the old name, Harrison said.
• Approved an agreement giving Williamsburg police arrest powers while working in surrounding counties if it becomes necessary for them to work there, such as during a disaster like the East Bernstadt tornado.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to accept $70,000 in funding from the Department of Local Government which state Rep. Regina Bunch helped obtain for the city.
The funding includes $60,000 for various water and sewer projects, $5,000 for fire department equipment and $5,000 for police department equipment.
The water and sewer funds are in addition to regular funding that the city receives from the Department of Local Government.