Johnson City commissioners have given final approval to an ordinance allowing beer to be sold before noon on Sundays. The City Commission voted 4-1 to allow off-premise beer sales to begin at 8 a.m. on Sundays. As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported Sept. 2, the new ordinance repeals city regulation that prohibited beer sales before noon.
Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin, who voted against the change on each of the three readings of the ordinance, said consumers have plenty of time to buy alcohol and extending the hours might increase alcohol use around recreational activities. He also said revenues generated from earlier sales would be negligible.
Other commissioners, however, argued the change would allow Johnson City retailers to compete with other beer sellers who face no prohibitions on early sales.
The early start for beer sales on Sunday do not please some residents who attended the final reading of the ordinance Sept. 1.
“I’m devastated that they did not at least let us speak,” said Rhonda McSwain, the president of the Mountain Home Neighborhood Association. “They know they should have a public hearing on something like this.”
While the city generally holds a public hearing on the second reading of an ordinance, it is not required to hold public meetings on every ordinance. Johnson City follows state statutes that require public hearings for rezonings, annexations and budget matters.
“I emailed all commissioners Wednesday asking that we have a chance to be heard,” McSwain told the Press. “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, including Mayor Jeff Banyas, who told her he would discuss the possibility of delaying the vote with other commissioners.
“I will suggest that I think the next time we do something like this that we have a public hearing,” Banyas said.
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