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Covington updates alcohol ordinance

COVINGTON — The Covington City Council has approved the first reading of an update to the city’s alcohol ordinance to allow licensing for on-premises wine and beer tastings, licensing for caterers to serve alcohol off-premises and temporary permits for non-profits to sell alcohol at events to benefit a charitable or civic organization. The first reading was approved at the council’s Sept. 3 meeting.

Wine and Beer Tastings

Ancillary wine and beer growler malt beverage tastings will be allowed if the ordinance gets final approval. To hold tastings, businesses would have to obtain both an off-premises and on-premises consumption license.

Wine sampling would be limited to wine sold on premises or in conjunction with wine education classes and sampling designed to promote wine appreciation and education. It could be done only at a wine counter area that is no more than 10 percent of the entire floor area of the premises. Samples could not exceed 2 ounces, and customers would be limited to 8 ounces in a two-hour period.

“They would not be able to just stay in there and drink wine all day,” said Assistant City Attorney Frank Turner Jr.

Customers also would not be allowed to leave the business with an open container.

Growler malt beverage tastings will also be possible on premises. Restrictions mimic those set for wine tastings. Growlers of up to 2 liters can be filled with keg beer, sealed and taken home for consumption.

Currently, only golf courses, restaurants with 50 percent of revenue from food sales or hotel lounges can obtain an on-premises license, said Turner.

The ordinance change was requested by Lisa Skinner Phillips, who is opening a wine specialty shop on the Square in late September.

“We did request the ordinance be revised simply because it’s so much easier for us to be able to allow tastings so that we can convince the customer to purchase a different type of wine if they’ve never had it before,” she said.

The Cork Boutique and Gifts, located at 1109 Church St. SE, will offer high-quality wines, craft beers and cigars from around the world, along with a selection of olive oils and whimsical gifts, Phillips said.

“I think it’s going to be a nice addition to the Square and downtown for sure. To start pulling people into the downtown area and give people a reason to stay in the community and not go outside the community, it’s going to be important to have different ordinance updates so we can really make it a downtown area of choice,” Phillips said.

The Cork will utilize Napa Technology WineStations that keep four to eight bottles per unit fresh for four to six weeks, eliminating the need to have a set time and date for wine tastings and costly disposal of leftovers, according to Phillips. Tastings can happen any time a customer comes into the store.

The Cork will sell domestic and imported wines, mostly from vineyards not currently sold in grocery stores and will have an inventory of more than 4,000 bottles and more than 2,000 cigars.

Phillips is also partnering with OneHope Wine to sell select wines that will benefit various charities, from breast cancer and autism to hunger and veterans’ causes.

Caterers

The proposed ordinance would also allow caterers to sell alcohol at permitted special events on private property. Revenue from sales at special events will be included in the calculation of food versus alcohol sales for any caterer who holds their alcohol license as a restaurant. Caterers seeking to serve alcohol must first be permitted as a food caterer in accordance with state law and would have to apply for a separate off-premises license to sell alcohol at an authorized and permitted special event. Sales could not be made at events on public property.

Non-profits

The ordinance would allow non-profits to get a one-day temporary permit up to two times a year to sell alcohol at events to benefit a charitable or civic organization.

The council is expected to vote on the final reading at its Sept. 16 meeting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.