Council to consider last call change

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Change, if adopted, would be for New Year holiday only

By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

For now, New Year’s revelry in Eminence Bars will end as soon as Time Square’s giant glittering ball touches down.

Monday night, Debbie Ball, of Rhinestone’s Bar and Grill, asked the Eminence City Council to consider extending the hours alcohol can be served in city limits to 2 a.m. on the New Year holiday only.

“We’re asking that we keep the bar open for two (more) hours on New Year’s Eve,” she said. “We will have designated drivers to take everyone home that needs it.” Later, Ball said she would be happy with even one extra hour, but that closing down at midnight would make celebrating the new year not as enjoyable for patrons.

The request was met with cautious consideration by the council. Mayor Jim Pettit said that should the council decide to approve such a move, it would have to be done for the entire city, not just for one business. “If she gets to do this, Eminence Bar and Grill gets to do, Hometown gets to do it, Scribers gets to do it, Renaissance gets to do it,” he said.

But Pettit offered additional caution.

“I’ll be the bad guy here,” he said. “I think when the forefathers before us wrote this ordinance, they had a reason they wrote it the way they did. I think if we do this, we’re encouraging drinking. I think we send a bad (message) to the kids.”

Council member Danny Meadows disagreed, saying he didn’t think that was really an issue, particularly considering the bars are open six days a week. Other council members like the idea of helping the businesses to make more money, but were concerned about other issues.

“I like the idea of helping the business, but at the same time, I want to keep in perspective what we open up,” council member Drane Stephens said. While Ball may have designated drivers, others might not do that, he argued.

“You can provide all the designated drivers,” Meadows countered, “but if you have some knucklehead out there, he’s going to drive.”

Council member Leo Mason looked at the request from both sides, and said Meadows’ scenario could happen at any time, not just New Year’s Eve. As an entertainer, he said, he’s performed on New Year’s Eve frequently, and never has he been somewhere that had to close down at midnight.

Allowing the bars to stay open a little longer, he said, might help keep customers — who otherwise would drive to places that would be open past midnight — in Henry County and “close to home.”

Council member Shawn Bright said at midnight, customers may simply drive to another area that allows later sales.

Bright proposed talking with city residents about the issue, something other council members agreed with.

In order to approve Ball’s request, the city would have to amend its current alcohol ordinance.

“Your ordinance sets the closing times,” city attorney Bill Brammell said. “If you choose to add to the hours of operation for New Year’s Eve, it would require we do an amendment to that ordinance. That’s not something I think you can do simply by vote in a meeting. We have to prepare the change, have two readings of it and adopt it.”

That, he added, would require at least two meetings between now and Dec. 31, plus publication of the revision. The council has just one regular meeting before that date, and would have to hold a special meeting if they decided to amend the ordinance.

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