Liquor in Loudon closer to reality

Vicky Newman News Herald

Although the final public hearing brought another standing-room-only crowd, plus emotional testimonials and appeals from recovering alcoholics, Bible scriptures and heated discussions, the Loudon City Council adopted a Loudon liquor ordinance Monday that will allow alcohol to be sold 200 feet from churches and schools. 

Council member Lewis “Charlie Brown” Garner cast the only dissenting vote. Voting to approve the ordinance as proposed were Council members Eugene Lambert, Michael Cartwright, Lynn Milsaps and Mayor Bernie “Inky” Swiney.

Bishop J.D. Brown, pastor of Word of Faith Church on Mulberry Street, asked council members to reconsider the distance requirement, and make  it “at least 1,000 feet” before finally adopting the proposed ordinance.  Brown expressed disappointment that the council reduced the distance when Garner was ill and unable to attend the meeting.

“A lot can be said about the perils of alcoholism, and it’s relevant,” Brown said. “We are seeking diligently to change lives, and get them free from alcohol, and I don’t think it is appropriate to have it right next door.  But, if it does happen, we will do our best to take those customers and convert them.”

Brown also said the church had been informed by their insurance provider that insurance premiums would increase if they were within 500 feet of a liquor facility. “I don’t think we should burden our parishioners so someone else could buy spirits,” he said.

Michael Prince, owner of the Showers of Blessings florist shop, said he opposed allowing liquor sales in downtown Loudon. Prince said his shop is across the street from a proposed liquor store location. 

“Our concern is the same as the church,” Prince said. “We’ve already been broken into twice.  We ... don’t want the kind of clientèle that comes (to a liquor store).  There is a different clientèle that buys beer on their way home from work than is buying spirits. As ministers, we have dealt with alcoholics and drug addicts, and when they want this and get set on it, there is not any way to stop them; they got to go get it. If it’s got to go somewhere, don’t put it in our neighborhood.”

Bart Iddins, the convenience store owner who had expressed interest in selling liquor, said he did not agree with Prince. “I believe the clientèle that would buy Jack Daniels is not that much different from the ones that buy beer. I intend to run a credible establishment and cater to the needs of folks that want to buy liquor. We are not trying to push it on people.”

Lloyd Yearwood, who said he was an evangelist, told of becoming an alcoholic at age 13, and described his longstanding personal battle with the addiction. “Thirty-four years ago, I was an alcoholic drinking liquor, beer, paint thinner... I am not for (liquor sales) at all. Every bit of it is just junk that we do not need to put out for our kids to get it. I have seen lives destroyed.”

When the matter was brought up for a vote, Garner said he still thinks the distance restriction should be at least 350 feet, and would like to restrict applicants/owners to city of Loudon residents . 

“What bothers me is we could make this as strict as we want it,” Garner said. “We’re doing a disservice to the voters — we sold them short. It is ... one of the hardest votes I’ve had in 12 years. You people want to make money, but I think it is dirty money. I believe in separation of church and state, but I cannot separate the love I have for God in my heart. I have to be accountable when I stand before God, and this upsets me. I can’t believe our community has come to this.”

Milsaps made the motion to approve the proposed ordinance. “I can’t see 100 feet making a lot of difference, and I don’t know that we could improve it that much,” he said. 

Cartwright said citizens were wrong to blame the council. “We are going to have a liquor store. It is going to be here... I believe we are doing our best with what we’ve got to work with. I second the motion.”

After the roll call vote, Swiney addressed the audience. “I want to remind you all that it has been determined there will be a liquor store in Loudon. Our responsibility is to see it is done properly, in a Christian manner. That sounds like an oxymoron, but we were handed this thing cold turkey; we had no choice in the matter.”

Applications for liquor store establishments will be available Jan. 21, and must be returned by March 5. Applicants will be required to pay a $300 fee per proposed establishment. The fee will allow city officials to conduct background and financial checks on applicants. Also, the applicant will be required to advertise the proposed liquor store location three times in the local newspaper, and include the public hearing date, March 16, for public comments.

The council is still leaning toward a points system for selecting the applicant, but have not yet established the criteria. Ed Bell, who worked to get voter approval of liquor sales, said he neither understands the reason for using a points system, nor feels applications should be released to the public.

“You put this out at the last meeting, and there will be financial information on those forms that the public shouldn’t see,” Bell said. “You are charged with making a decision. What is the purpose for points? Let us submit an application and you guys make a decision. It is totally up to you all.”

Bell said the idea of an applicant remaining anonymous was ludicrous. “According to the application, anybody can look at it and tell who it is. Might as well put the names on them and y’all look at them...”

Liquor stores open in Loudon without residents' approval

A state law means liquor stores will open in an East Tennessee city despite the fact residents there voted against them.

The Loudon City Council approved a new liquor ordinance Monday night.

It calls for two liquor stores within the city limits.

Loudon city residents voted against a referendum allowing liquor stores in November.

However, city officials say because county voters passed the measure and a state law requires the stores to be within city limits, the new businesses must go in Loudon.

The city will begin accepting applications in March.