If Hanceville residents vote to join their larger neighbor to the north and say ‘yes’ to legal alcohol sales next week, they won’t have to wait for the city to draft an alcohol ordinance.

Unlike the City of Cullman, which held off on crafting an ordinance until referendum voters left it no choice, Hanceville’s mayor and city council agonized over the ordinance it passed in February 2010, just before voters there narrowly defeated the city’s first-ever referendum on legal sales.

Two years ago, the path to creating Hanceville’s 29-page ordinance on alcohol spanned two marathon public work sessions, one of which had to be held in the city’s recreation and wellness center to accommodate the crowd who came to voice their opinions.

All that work back then may have seemed like a wasted effort after the referendum failed, but the city council is allowing the 2010 document to remain on the books with no changes. That means, if residents approve alcohol sales in the March 13 special referendum, the existing ordinance will have the force of law.

The ordinance apportions the city’s share of alcohol revenues evenly to the Hanceville fire department, the Hanceville police department, and, notably, public schools in Hanceville. Each of those recipients would receive 5 percent of city-generated revenues from licensing, fees and enforcement.

If the city goes wet, the earmark for education would make Hanceville’s schools the only ones under the Cullman County school system’s administration to receive a municipal subsidy on top of a spartan state-allocated education budget.

Thirty-five percent of Hanceville’s share would be placed in the city’s general fund. The remaining 50 percent would be designated for infrastructure, including the street department and the Hanceville Water and Sewer board, a separate corporate entity.

The ordinance establishes an alcohol license review committee and enforcement panel, which would monitor businesses’ compliance with local zoning codes, licensing and other regulations.

Businesses selling alcohol would also fall under supervision of the Alabama Beverage Control (ABC) board. The Hanceville ordinance engages many existing ABC regulations, and makes some optional ABC stipulations mandatory. For instance, businesses would have to obtain ABC certification under the agency’s Alabama Responsible Vendor program within 30 days of being granted a license.

Lounges and package stores would have to fall inside the city’s existing B-1 (local shopping district) or B-2 (general business district) land use zones, and must also be located no closer than 400 feet from the main entrance of the nearest church. That buffer zone extends to 1,000 for school entrances. Grocery stores, restaurants, and package stores or lounges whose buffer zones are encroached by newly-locating churches would be exempt from the zoning buffer.

Sunday alcohol sales are prohibited. The ordinance limits sales hours from 7 a.m. until midnight, six days out of the week. That’s slightly more flexible than Cullman’s alcohol ordinance, which limits selling hours to 11 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Hanceville will also not allow open containers in public.

Applying for a liquor license in Hanceville will cost $500. Businesses granted a license would then pay annual privilege fees of widely varying amounts determined by how they are defined in the ordinance.  In the case of beer wholesalers and wine wholesalers, the fee starts at $275, increasing to $375 for wholesalers of both types. Warehouse license fees are set at $500 annually.

Steeper are the fees for operators of clubs and lounges, as well as package stores. Clubs with 150 or more paid members, defined as Class I clubs, would pay $3,000 per year; smaller clubs with 100 or fewer paid members would pay $2,000 per year. Package stores will have to cough up $5,000 annually for the privilege of selling liquor in Hanceville.

Restaurant operators wishing to sell alcohol would fall under one of two categories established in the ordinance.

Class I restaurants include those larger than 1,000 square feet and which serve meals at least twice each day. A Class I restaurant license would cost $1,500 per year.

Class II restaurants are smaller than 1,000 square feet, and must serve only one meal per day. Class II licenses would cost $750 per year. Restaurants of both types must generate at least 60 percent of their revenues from food sales.

Clubs, lounges, package stores and restaurants all would pay the city an additional monthly fee totaling 15 percent of gross receipts on the sale of liquor. Revenues from the sale of beer and wine would not be subject to the monthly fee.

Copies of the ordinance are available at the Hanceville city hall.

* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.

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