Board asked to support beer petition

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors is accustomed to makingdecisions involving large transactions and policy changes in thecounty, but an upcoming vote scheduled for Oct. 20 could mark thefirst time leaders have weighed in as regular Joes – in the citylimits.

Due to the proximity of the Lincoln County-Brookhaven GovernmentComplex to the Oak Tree restaurant, supervisors will have thechoice in two weeks to decide whether or not to sign a petitioncalling for the sale of beer at the restaurant.

A Brookhaven ordinance on alcohol sales requires any businessowner applying for a beer permit to gather the written approval of80 percent of the landowners within a 300-foot radius of theirestablishment. The courthouse’s western parking lot is well withinthat distance.

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“It’s about landowners,” said Board Attorney Bob Allen. “Theboard controls county-owned lands that puts them within 300feet.”

If the board decides to sign on in favor of allowing Oak Treepatrons to knock back a cold one with their fried chicken, it willcount as only one signature on the petition. Its approval cannotmake or break the petition.

But the board is examining all the angles of the seemingly easydecision before it decides. The board tabled its vote Monday,instructing Allen to study the liability issues that could arise ifsomeone parking in the courthouse parking lot were to have analcohol-related accident after having one too many at the OakTree.

Oak Tree co-owner Marty Walker said he would take steps toensure such an incident does not occur if his business is granted abeer license.

“If it was opened (beer sales), it would be controlled – ID willbe triple-checked and we would have a cut-off limit,” he said. “Wedefinitely don’t want to turn the place into a bar and grill.”

Walker said he “never wanted to fool with” beer sales at hisrestaurant initially because “it’s a headache” – an experience helearned while working the restaurant scene in Jackson. But sincethe Oak Tree opened this summer, libations have been in demand, hesaid.

“A lot of customers came in and requested it,” Walker said.”It’s more a customer request than it is ours.”

Walker said he needs 21 signatures from the 26 landowners he hasidentified surrounding the Oak Tree to fulfill the ordinance’s 80percent requirement.

City Clerk Mike Jinks said the Oak Tree would become one ofapproximately eight establishments in Brookhaven allowed to servebeer for consumption on the premises if the license were awarded,but the restaurant’s effort will require much more than just apetition.

“They’ve got all kinds of stuff they have to do before it goesto a meeting,” Jinks said.

Aside from the petition, Walker must submit various copies oflicenses and property deeds, and Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson and Building Inspector Chip Gennaro must also sign off onthe beer license.

Even if all those requirements are met, aldermen will have thefinal say.

“There will be some who vote against it, but these requestsusually pass,” Jinks said.