It took more than two months, numerous work sessions and about a dozen drafts — but the City of Cullman’s alcohol ordinance is now approved.

The city council held the second reading of the ordinance at a Tuesday night meeting, attended by about a dozen people, mostly city employees. The ordinance officially took effect Wednesday, after it was published in The Times, as the city is required by law to print the rules in a community newspaper.

“We don’t lean one way or the other, and we want to serve all people, and be balanced for the wets and the drys in this,” Mayor Max Townson said. “I think the council did an astounding job and took a lot of time reading and doing research. I think they really went above and beyond the call of duty to get this done.”

Council members Andy Page and Jenny Folsom agreed that they believe the ordinance is a good representation of Cullman.

“We were ready for this to end and to get things going,” Page said. “I think we have as good of an ordinance as we could hope to have.”

“I feel good about it, and the council and mayor were very deliberative,” Folsom added.

Though the process has been exhaustive, council member Johnny Cook said he believes the time was well spent to draft the 55 page document.

“I think we worked diligently with all the citizens’ interest in mind, and I’m glad we’re finally finished,” he said. “We’re trying to let people have what they voted for, but still protect the people who are against it, and still keep our city intact.”

Cook said he knows some things may need to be reworked in the future — the city of Arab, for example, amended its alcohol ordinance numerous times in the months following approval — but he thinks the local regulations should fit the community well.

“I think we wrote a good ordinance, but is it perfect? No,” Cook said. “But, hopefully any changes will be few and far between.”

Basing the ordinance on the city of Athens’ served as an excellent starting point, Cook said, as the council was able to learn from the adjustments officials there made over the past five years.

“Athens gave us a very good model to follow, which was a big help,” he said. “We were able to see how things worked for them and the changes they made along the way.”

With the ordinance in effect, city hall is now processing alcohol licenses for businesses and restaurants. The licenses will reportedly be addressed on a first come, first served basis.

Some basic guidelines include: alcohol sales will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday. On Friday and Saturday nights, sales will be allowed until midnight. The monthly gross receipts a business must pay on alcohol sales is set at 12 percent.

In areas zoned Central Business District (mostly downtown), a limit of 50 feet will be required between any business serving or selling alcohol and nearby churches, schools or daycares. In Business District 1, 2 and 3 zones (mostly around highways), a limit of 250 feet is required. The distance measurements will be made from the exterior walls of the business, not the main entrance.

Zoning guidelines for package stores are also set, with a 1,500 feet limit required between package stores; and at least 1,000 feet limit from a church, daycare or school. In an effort to discourage lounges (i.e. dance clubs, bars) the city is in the process of establishing a new zone called the Entertainment District (E-1). A public hearing to create the zone is set for Feb. 7.

To apply for an alcohol license, a $200 filing fee must be paid to the city, and applicants will be required to complete the Alabama Responsible Vendor program, which provides training on alcohol laws. Depending on the type of business, the cost of an alcohol license will vary. Fees include: $1,500 for a restaurant license, $500 for a warehouse license, $3,000 for a package store license, $5,000 for a lounge (i.e. dance club, bar) license, $1,000 for a manufacturer license, and $1,000 for a wholesale license.

Cullman voters approved the legal sale of alcohol via a wet/dry referendum on Nov. 2, which passed by a margin of approximately 52 percent to 48 percent.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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