Beer is now available at the crack of dawn on Sundays at Johnson City locations holding off-premise licenses.
On Thursday, the City Commission voted 4-1 to allow Sunday beer sales to begin at 8 a.m. The new ordinance rolls forward the beer “start time” by four hours and repeals the old ordinance which allowed beer sales to begin at noon.
Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin voted against the measure, as he did during each of the three readings. He has held that people have plenty of time to buy alcohol and extending the hours could be furthering alcohol use around recreational activities. He also said any new revenues from earlier sales would be negligible.
“Approving this based on four weekends out of the year is confusing,” Commissioner Clayton Stout said about the sales benefitting stores who will now be able to collect revenues from early risers who gather their goods, including suds, for a day or weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway and other large events.
But he then called the situation a “win-win” and said, “I respect the wishes of my peers” before voting in favor of the new law.
Mountain Home Neighborhood Association President Rhonda McSwain was on hand Thursday and was not pleased with the vote.
“I’m devastated that they did not at least let us speak,” she said. “They know they should have a public hearing on something like this.”
The city is not obliged to hold public meetings on every ordinance, and this is one case.
“I emailed all commissioners Wednesday asking that we have a chance to be heard,” McSwain said. “None of them returned my email. Are they not looking at the big picture? The hours that beer is available already is — or was — adequate.”
McSwain said she spoke with several commissioners by telephone earlier in the week, including Mayor Jeff Banyas, who told her he would discuss the possibility of delaying the vote with other commissioners.
Only Stout and Banyas commented on the issue before the vote.
“I will suggest that I think the next time we do something like this that we have a public hearing,” Banyas said.
City Manager Pete Peterson has said several businesses requested the action and that the ordinance was generated by city staff. When these off-premises license holders cannot start selling beer until noon, which is how the old ordinance read, it results in the loss of sales and revenues to Johnson City’s corporate citizens and its tax collections, he said.
Vice Mayor Phil Carriger and Commissioner Jane Myron also voted for the ordinance.
In other business, the City Commission:
n Approved an application for a roughly $962,000 Assistance to Firefighters Grant to help pay for an aerial ladder truck and the installation of automatic sprinkler systems at five of the city’s nine stations.
The truck would replace a 1992 Pierce Lance 75-foot ladder truck that was placed into service when a 1979 model was permanently removed from service. The application is for $750,000, and the city’s match would be $150,000.
Five fire stations were constructed without the installation of sprinkler systems. The cost to retrofit the stations is about $212,000. Should the grant be awarded, the city would pay 20 percent of the cost, or about $42,400.
n Approved an amendment to city policy that now will allow any current employee that is promoted to assistant city manager, finance director, fire chief, police chief, planning director public works director and water/sewer director to reside outside the Johnson City limits. The city manager still must reside within the city.
n Approved an ordinance to convey about 3.4 acres of land on King Springs Road to Eastern Eight Community Development Corp. for the development of a single-family subdivision.