Bar Wars: Episode 2--The Golfer Menace

One interesting point at the Dade County Commission’s regular December meeting on Thursday night was another skirmish in Dade’s ongoing "Bar Wars"--the county's uneasy progression from a blue-law-riddled past to a more permissive present:

County Attorney Robin Rogers told the commission at the Dec. 7 meeting that he and the county Alcoholic Beverage Control, or so-called “Beer” Board, were discussing whether a variance from the county’s alcohol ordinance should be granted to accommodate the Trenton Golf Club. The Back Valley Road golf facility wishes to sell adult beverages to its patrons for consumption at the golf course, said the attorney, but not necessarily in a clubhouse setting. “That’s going to be difficult to fit” into Dade’s ordinance as it stands, said Rogers. “We’re not ready to come to any kind of agreement yet.”

Questioned after the meeting, Rogers said his understanding was that the beverages were to be consumed in golf carts.

Phone calls to the Trenton Golf Club went unanswered, so The Planet consulted Patty Murphy, who acts as clerk of the Beer Board. She explained that the Trenton Golf Club’s request was, specifically, to sell beer and wine along with its limited food service offerings, such as prepackaged sandwiches and packets of peanuts, for consumption out on the golf course at large. Currently, she said, golfers are allowed to “brown-bag” their own beverages and drink them out on the links unsupervised.

Consumption of the beverages on the golf course would seem to disqualify the golf club as an off-premises seller, said Ms. Murphy, but neither does it seem to meet the ordinance's rules for a restaurant, which include minimum seating requirements and a specified food-to-beverage sales ratio.

“We just go by the ordinance,” said Ms. Murphy. If a case doesn’t seem to fit the ordinance, she said: “We have to take it somewhere else for guidance.”

In this case, the variance idea was batted back to the county commission. But the commission did not take action on the matter Thursday night, nor in fact seem to consider it beyond listening to the county attorney’s report.

Dade County has allowed package, or off-premises, sales of beer and wine for decades, and Trenton has permitted beer and wine to be served in restaurants since 2010. In November 2016, Dade voters said yes to a referendum allowing restaurants in the unincorporated county to serve liquor by the drink, but the commission since passed an ordinance restrictive enough to effectively quash any local efforts to do so.

This time, will the county commission accommodate the thirsty golfers, allow the golf club to sell its beer, and collect taxes on the proceeds? Or, as it did in the case of a small restaurant that wished to sell beer and wine, deter sales with restrictions and perpetuate the brown-bagging rule?

Time, and the Beer Board, will tell. Ms. Murphy said the Beer Board would schedule a meeting on the matter sometime in January.

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