North Texas Daily

Ordinance approved, liquor sale on the way

Ordinance approved, liquor sale on the way

Ordinance approved, liquor sale on the way
November 19
23:18 2014

Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer

Dentonites were not surprised when the city became wet with a favorable 48-point margin for liquor sales in the Nov. 4 election, but hard liquor on every street corner will not happen just yet.

Denton officials must first change some of the wording in the ordinance to account for the vote. The Denton City Council confirmed Tuesday night the ordinance to allow liquor sales within the city limits, but the new code will not take effect until Dec. 2, abiding by legal protocol.

The results on the Denton County Elections Administration website show 18,650 voting for, and 6,569 voting against the ordinance. While UNT and TWU students are widely seen as an influence over the measure, the average voting age was 52, according to election data.

Denton voters were given six spending propositions on the ballot; liquor sales attracted the second highest number of votes, behind the hydraulic fracturing ban.

Private clubs to open bars

Citizens will not be the only ones affected by the ordinance. Local bars will now be free of burdensome fees required with a dry city.

“Prior to the election, voters of Denton did not want hard liquor by the drink, so in order to get that hard liquor, the TABC has private clubs,” Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent Beth Gray said. “And they can’t serve alcohol to anybody who is not a member of the private club.”

Denton bars had to pay for permits to identify as a private club. Gray said the standard 2-year permits cost bar owners $6,600, but that’s only to stay open until midnight. Denton rules allow bars to remain open until 2 a.m., and if bar owners wished to do so, they had to pay an additional $627.

For a bar to serve hard liquor and mixed drinks, it must apply through the TABC to receive a mixed beverage permit, although bars already pay mixed beverage state taxes. When the ordinance takes effect in December, finances loom over the bar owners, as the private club permits will also still be in effect.

“Bar owners don’t want to lose all that money for the 2-year permit they already bought,” Gray said. “So they may wait a year and a half to apply for the mixed beverage permit, so they don’t lose all that money. It doesn’t matter if you use your [private club] permit for one day, 385 days or 725 days, we are going to take all that money.”

She said Denton bar owners have expressed the idea of holding on to their private club permit until it’s time to renew. Then, they will apply for the new mixed beverage permit.

“I’d say in a year, most of the private clubs will be gone,” Gray said. “There will be some clubs that will apply for the mixed beverage permit right off the bat.”

Liquor locations

There are certain laws Denton must abide by in regards to liquor sales.

The TABC prohibits liquor stores and bars to operate within an established proximity of public or private schools, hospitals and churches. The sale of liquor cannot occur within 300 feet of the said business, as Section 5-3 of the city’s Rules and Regulations for Sales explains.

“Anywhere we are allowed to have retail business, we are allowed to have liquor sales,” City Councilman John Ryan said.

The ordinance states the distance between the liquor store and said institutions will be measured from property edge to property edge, using a direct line from the properties. In the case of an intersection between the two locations, the measurement will stretch across it and calculate the distance.

Any violations on the part of the business owner will result in a $2,000 fine, and each day is a new and separate violation. If the potential location is on or above the fifth floor of a building, the measurement will include the vertical distance away from the church or school.

Like bar owners, liquor store owners are required to hold a mixed drink permit. Since the election, Gray said callers frequently ask about the process of opening a liquor store.

During an interview with the North Texas Daily, a woman called to ask Gray about the applications.

“That’s pretty common these days,” Gray said. “People are realizing the trend, and that it is bringing the money local.”

Owners must first apply with the city to meet zoning and development criteria. Next, the paperwork will be sent to Gray’s office for approval.

She said TABC conducts background inspections and applicants must be off of parole for more than five years, otherwise they will be denied. Convicted felons are prohibited from alcohol retail.

TABC also verifies the applicant’s means to operate as a retailer, and not as a manufacturer or distributor.

“In Texas, we work on a three-tier system,” Gray said. “The retailer has to buy from the distributor, and the distributor has to buy from the manufacturer. If you’re in distribution, you cannot hold a retail permit.” 

For the stores already selling beer or wine, owners will also be subject to the paperwork. However, Gray said it will be a different variation, mostly pertaining to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, such as bathroom availability required in liquor stores.

“As far as enforcement, there is really no difference,” Beth said. “It’s just a different kind of store.”

Safety concerns

Opponents of the ordinance cited public safety as a reason to vote against it.

“It has been about 20 years since that was on the ballot,” said Ryan, who owns a wine shop on Hickory Street. “With the amount of college students we have in town, those who do have reservations are concerned that their access to alcohol will be easier.”

While the access to liquor will be more convenient, both the TABC and the Denton County Sheriff’s Office do not foresee safety conflicts. 

“We’re always concerned about public safety,” said Sandi Brackeen, public information officer for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office. “At this point there is no indication that having liquor in the city will have an appreciable effect on crime.”

Featured Image: The city council members discuss liquor sales in Denton at the city council meeting on Tuesday evening. Other items on the agenda included fracking and rezoning. Photos by Devin Dakota

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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