Randolph County can't be 'wet' in practice until local laws are written
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Dec 01, 2012 | 4549 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jose Velazquez, manager of La Herradura Mexican Restaurant in Roanoke, checks out customers during the lunch shift Friday. The restaurant is not yet serving alcohol despite the recent vote in Randolph County to go wet. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Jose Velazquez, manager of La Herradura Mexican Restaurant in Roanoke, checks out customers during the lunch shift Friday. The restaurant is not yet serving alcohol despite the recent vote in Randolph County to go wet. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
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Randolph County is wet under Alabama law, but since alcohol sales aren’t yet legal under local rules, it’s still effectively dry.

In the Nov. 6 general election Randolph County residents voted to allow legal alcohol sales, leaving just Clay County as the only completely dry area in the state. But for the time being, municipal and county officials haven’t reached an agreement on how they’ll handle distribution of alcohol.

“We’re trying to work it with Roanoke, Wadley and Woodland a unified system,” said Tim Cole, the mayor of Wedowee. “We all have to pass our own ordinances, but we want to keep it the same.”

Cole said the mayors of the four cities in Randolph County, along with the County Commission, have met with officials from the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board as well as their attorneys to sort through the legal procedures of selling and issuing licenses to sell alcohol.

Although alcohol sales won’t be implemented until the county and municipalities establish ordinances regulating sales, Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control officer Lt. Stan Ray said there’s very little for local governments to decide on the issue.

“State law covers most of it,” said Ray, who works out of the Anniston office which now covers the wet Randolph County. “There’s just a little leeway and that mostly involves zoning regulations.”

But zoning is a big deal for many establishments in the county depending on alcohol sales to boost revenue. Roanoke Mayor Mike Fisher said he has already heard from restaurant and grocery store owners that are not only eager to start selling alcohol, but to find out if they’ll even be able to after the city establishes zoning laws.

The most notable issue, Fisher said, is how close Roanoke will decide to allow sales near churches and schools.

“I have heard some concern from a few local restaurants which are very close to churches,” Fisher said. “They want to sell alcohol, but they don’t know what the zoning issues will be.”

Dianna Cui, a manager at Hong Kong King Buffet on U.S. 431 in Roanoke, said she’s concerned the restaurant, located next door to a church, will be restricted from sales if city ordinances are too tight. It’s something that community leaders will need to decide together, Fisher said.

“This is new to all of us,” Fisher said. “It’s here now in Randolph County, and we can’t change it now. Whether you voted wet or dry, we’ll all have to work together to find solutions.”

Restaurants and stores are asking when and how they can sell alcohol, because customers are asking, said Jose Velazquez, a manager at La Herradura Mexican restaurant in Roanoke.

“People will come in, especially from out of town, and want to know if they can get a drink,” Velazquez said. “They always want to know if they can get a drink anywhere in town.”

But Velazquez and his customers might be waiting for a few months more. Fisher said the county and municipalities are looking towards March as a tentative timetable for when to start selling alcohol.

“We’re trying to get this going as quickly as possible, but it’s also more important to try and do this right,” Cole said. “That’s a lot more important than trying to get alcohol sales right now.”

Ray said establishing how to go about selling alcohol is often the biggest hurdle a county or city faces once going wet. Typically, once that’s established, things tend to sort themselves out.

“In Anniston, we don’t really worry about that stuff because it’s been around forever,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll be fine. Once they get the procedures in place, things will run smoothly.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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