Beer Board Agrees People Should Vote on Sunday Alcohol Sales--If Anyone's Listening...

February 5, 2020

Alcoholic Beverage Control Board members, from head of table clockwise: Chairman Robert "Smokey" Russell, members John Gothard, Dorayne "Rooster Stephens, D.L. "Peanut" Moore and clerk Patty Murphy. Another member, Darrell Pardue, was absent for medical reasons.


The Dade County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board--or so-called "beer board"--met briefly on Monday to discuss two resolutions scheduled for consideration by the Dade County Commission at its February meeting this Thursday. The resolutions, proposed by District 2 Commissioner Phillip Hartline, call for referendum questions on the May 19 primary ballot concerning Sunday sales of alcohol, at stores and in restaurants, respectively.


Tax appraiser Patty Murphy, who acts as clerk for the appointed group of citizen, had called the Feb. 3 meeting to familiarize beer board members with the two resolutions, and to allow them to weigh in on them, prior to their introduction to the county commission meeting. But beer board members seemed confused and frustrated by the whole process. Why, they asked Ms. Murphy, ask them if the county commission would have the final say? 


"Sunday sales, is that up to the commissioners?" asked member D.L "Peanut" Moore. "If they turn it down and they don't want to send it out to the people to vote, it's a waste of our time. There's no need to get our feelings hurt."


The beer board's feelings, plainly, had already been hurt. Robert "Smokey" Russell opened the beer board meeting with the question: "We're the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Why do we have to give all this crap to the commissioners to pass on it?"


The beer board had agreed in October 2019 to accept Hartline's last suggestion: amending Dade's liquor ordinance to allow distilled beverages to be sold in the same geographical areas as malt beverages. But when the matter was taken before the county commission at its November meeting, the commission squashed any notion of changing the ordinance. "It was done for a reason," said Dade County Executive Ted Rumley. 


It was clear this had not sat well with the beer board. "I'm not a puppet on a string," said Moore. And: "They want to cut our hands." About voting on these new proposals, he agreed: "It's going to be the same thing." 


Ms. Murphy encouraged board member to take their complaints to the source. "If y'all disagree, then y'all seriously need to talk to the commissioners," she told them. She invited them to attend the Thursday night county commission meeting.


Beer board members were also confused at the intent of the resolutions themselves, which Ms. Murphy said she had obtained from Dade County Clerk Don Townsend, presumably as drafted by the county attorney, Robin Rogers. Both resolutions specifically call for "a referendum election to be held on May 19, 2020." Doesn't an actual binding referendum entail prior action by the state legislature, asked Moore, and thus require more time than between now and May 19? Wouldn't a real referendum have to wait at least until next year?


The Planet--which had previously understood that the questions being requested for the May ballot were nonbinding "straw poll" questions--requested clarification from the county attorney, but so far remains unelucidated. Perhaps, though, the exact intent of the resolutions will emerge at the Feb. 6 commission meeting. 


Meanwhile--and with a tacit "for what it's worth" hanging in the air--the beer board agreed with Commissioner Hartline that Sunday alcohol sales should go before the voters. "Let the people vote," said Dorayne "Rooster" Stephens. 


If the county commissioners wanted Sunday sales on a referendum ballots, said Moore: "We'll be behind them if they want to put it on there." 


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