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BOC mulls liquor by the drink

COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session at 7 p.m. Monday at the Newton County Historic Courthouse to discuss by-the-drink sales of alcoholic beverages.

In February during a working retreat for county officials, commissioners discussed the possibility of allowing by the drink sales of beer and wine and liquor. Some said it would boost economic development and sales taxes.

The county's alcohol ordinance allows retail package sales of beer and wine but not liquor. By-the-drink sales are not allowed.

The county could amend its ordinance to allow beer and wine by the drink sales without holding a referendum; however, liquor by the drink sales would require a referendum, said Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office. The referendum could be held during the Nov. 2 General Election.

If that's something the board wants to pursue, it would need to address licensing and regulation of sales, Carter said during the retreat, noting that it would have broad discretion in terms of location and timing sales could take place, as long as state law is followed. The board could restrict sales to certain locations, such as development nodes or certain zoning classifications, she said.

It could also require establishments to make a certain percentage of money from food sales or that food be served every hour establishments are open. Regulations could even address the attire of employees and prohibit pool tables, darts and other games in establishments that serve alcohol, Carter said.

Commissioners typically do not allow public comment during work sessions, but the meetings are open to the public. The item is also on the agenda for the board's regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Chairman Kathy Morgan previously said she believes by-the-drink sales could help with economic development, but she would like to see sales restricted to certain locations.

"I don't want anybody to get a place on some corner to rent it out for some honky tonk. That's not my intention," she said.

Morgan could not be reached for comment on the work session by press time Friday.