Pro liquor group stepping up petition efforts

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The New Albany Spirit group is mounting a petition drive this weekend in their effort to call for an election on whether liquor and wine of more than 5 percent alcohol can be served in the city limits.

Before this year, it was only legal to sell liquor in a municipality once the issue had been passed in a county-wide vote. That had been tried in Union County and failed.

A change in the law this year makes it possible to hold the election only within the city, and if the issue passes, liquor still would only be sold inside the city.

The group needs signatures of at least 20 percent of the registered voters in the city and say the drive this weekend is to wrap the effort up so the petitions can be submitted and an election called for early in 2013. They do not play to wait for the municipal elections already set for May and June.

City officials have some control over sale of beer and light wines but much of the regulations governing sale of liquor and wine fall to the state department of revenue Alcoholic Beverage Control agency.

One critical decision aldermen can make is whether, if the issue were to pass, liquor would be sold just by the drink on-premises, or whether packaged liquor could be sold.

Either way, alcohol could not be sold within 400 feet of a church, school, kindergarten or funeral home unless the point of sale and the church, school, kindergarten or funeral are “in an adjacent commercial or industrial district.” In that case the minimum distance would be 100 feet. A church or funeral home may waive the distance requirement; a school cannot.

The ABC limits on-premises sale of alcohol to from 10 a.m. to midnight, except on New Year’s Eve when service can continued until 1 a.m. if the day is not a Sunday. The local governing authority can petition the ABC to change hours of service in some cases and approved resort areas are not subject to the same hours of sales. Approval as a resort area involves a lengthy process with local government support and public input considered.

An extensive set of regulations includes actions that are prohibited where alcohol is served – mostly sexual in nature – and the handling of full or partly full bottles at hotels or some special events.

The law provides permits for on-premises sale, package sale and several temporary types of permits for caterers and special events.

If the group has the required number of signatures, the election will be called for within 30 days. Whether the measure passes, it cannot be voted on again for two years.

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