Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Melissa SanFelice, a bartender at Five O'clock Somewhere in Covington, draws a draft beer for a customer. Currently, alcohol cannot be purchased by the drink in unincorporated Newton, but that could change if commissioners approve a resolution to put the issue before voters.
COVINGTON -- The public will have two opportunities to speak out on the proposed alcohol by the drink and Sunday sales ordinance before the Board of Commissioners votes on whether the matters should be put to a referendum.
Public hearings are set for 6 p.m. Monday, June 11, and 10 a.m. Saturday, June 16, at the Newton County Historic Courthouse, located at 1124 Clark St. An overview of the ordinance will be given prior to opening the floor for public comments.
The county is considering three separate issues: alcohol package sales on Sundays; sales by the drink; and sales by the drink on Sundays.
Chairman Kathy Morgan said there might be another work session held prior to the board voting on whether to approve a resolution for those questions to go on the Nov. 6 ballot. A vote must be taken by the board between June 5 and July 17 for that to happen.
The proposed ordinance would limit alcohol sales to overlay districts. As currently proposed, sales would be allowed only in certain portions of the Almon Overlay and the Town Center area of the Stanton Springs. Other areas, such as a portion of the proposed Salem Overlay, or a portion of a Brick Store overlay when that is developed, would have to be added by the board once they are identified and overlay standards are adopted by the board, according to Scott Sirotkin, director of the Department of Development Services.
Commissioners have haggled over distance requirements.
State law requires that establishments serving or selling alcohol be a minimum of 300 feet from certain facilities, including schools, churches, alcohol addiction treatment centers and housing authorities and 200 feet from a public library.
Commissioner Mort Ewing previously said he wants the county ordinance to be more stringent, upping that minimum to 500 feet. But other commissioners said that could deter high-quality restaurants from locating here and at the board's retreat earlier this year, a majority agreed to keep distance requirements at the state level.
A previous vote of whether to hold a referendum on by the drink sales failed 3 to 2 in 2010.