Millbrook and Wetumpka a step closer to Sunday alcohol sales
ELMORE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) -
A heated debate took place in the State House today as lawmakers shouted at each other, over alcohol. The debate is over the local sale of alcohol on Sundays.
Leaders in Wetumpka and Millbrook want their restaurants to be able to serve alcohol on Sundays, just like their neighbors, Prattville and Montgomery.
Wednesday a public hearing was held in the local legislation committee. Those involved obviously are very passionate about where they stand.
While at the podium arguing in support of the bill, John Teague, a lobbyist for Poarch Band of Creek Indians said, "this racially discriminatory language singles us out, to tell us that we are to be treated different."
Senator Bryan Taylor, who has been openly opposing the bill argued back.
"This isn't about gambling, this is about a business that wants to expand its privilege to profit from the sale of alcohol in my county," Taylor said. "While telling the citizens and constituents that I represent, if you are injured because of our irresponsible sale and serving of alcohol, too bad there's nothing you can do about it, we are exempt from the jurisdiction of this state."
No matter if for or against the bill, which would allow on premise Sunday alcohol sales in Wetumpka and Millbrook, the emotions were high on all sides.
"I will take you to court any day," said Representative Paul Beckman to Taylor, while arguing after the hearing.
Beckman introduced the bill. Amended from its original form, the bill now includes gambling facilities.
"Indians are on sovereign land and that's exactly what they are, they are sovereign," Beckman stated. "The federal courts have said state has no jurisdiction on them."
Taylor fired back to Beckman's statement.
"None of my other restaurants and bars in Wetumpka or Millbrook are authorized to run gambling operations, if they do they could lose their ABC license," argued Taylor.
Beyond the fight over casinos, Senator Bryan Taylor, who also introduced a similar bill which later failed in the senate, says Sunday alcohol sales should have a referendum and be voted on by residents.
Mike Ingram, a resident of Millbrook and Senior Pastor at Millbrook Baptist Church believes that Sunday alcohol sales would negatively impact the community.
"We are looking at it from a moral issue and just an effect on the community, and how an increase in alcohol sales will negatively impact our community," Ingram said. "Sunday, itself, is a special day for us as Christians and as believes and we just think it would be better not to sell alcohol."
Even though there's a major divide, all sides agree on one thing. It could have an economic boost to the two cities and place them on an equal playing field with their neighbors.
"We also want to make sure we are treating all of our businesses and restaurants equally," stated Taylor.
While talking about the casino, Taylor stated "We want to make sure we aren't giving any competitive edge over one or the other."
"We are trying to keep as far as the economic development equal between all cities where they have the same opportunity and same privilege," said Beckman.
The bill did get approved by the committee. It will now be added to the regular Senate calendar. However, Thursday is the last day of the session. If it doesn't get to the floor for a vote, it will be next year before the cities could see a change, if at all.
The bill also includes the sale of draft beer. Something else to note, Prattville passed Sunday alcohol sales more than ten years ago. It did not have a referendum.