BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (June 14) — The Greenfield City Board passed the second of three readings of a revised beer ordinance, during its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 14.
The revised ordinance reduces the distance allowed between businesses that sell, manufacture or store beer to gathering places such as churches, schools, and daycares from 2,000 feet to 200 feet. The distance limitation is measured from property line to property-line.
Since two board members were absent, the vote was tied with three for and three against the ordinance, leaving Mayor Cindy McAdams to cast the deciding vote in favor of the ordinance.
Local resident Clint Monroe asked what prompted the board to vote in favor of the beer ordinance.
Alderman James Roy Pope explained the reason for changing the distance between establishments that sell beer to gathering places such as churches, schools, and daycares from 2,000 feet to 200 feet, is to prevent a single store, located on the outskirts of town, from continuing to monopolize beer sales. “That store has had a monopoly on beer sales for the past 15 to 20 years,” Pope said. The store mentioned by Pope is Tobacco SuperStore, located at 3770 North Meridian St. (Hwy. 45 four-lane).
“It’s not that we’re not in the beer-selling business,” Pope said. “We are. We have been for years and years. The existing ordinance just keeps new businesses from coming into town (because of current distance requirements), and it prevents those businesses that we have in town from playing on a level playing field.” He stressed, because of the 2,000-feet rule, there are not many establishments in town that are allowed to sell beer.
“With that said, we have already had some interest from another business coming to town,” Pope said. He stated the owner of Hilltop Grocery in Medina has purchased the former Madison Service Station property, located on the corner of Forrest Street and South Meridian (Hwy. 45 four-lane) just south of Casey’s General Store.
Pope noted existing Greenfield businesses have also expressed interest in selling packaged beer. This includes local merchandising stores, such as the Dollar General Store located at 2863 North Meridian St. and the Dollar General Store at 1207 South Meridian St.; and two convenience stores – Casey’s General Store and Little General (owned by Cox Oil).
Pope stated the revenue generated from beer sales will be earmarked for paving city streets and allow the city to avoid having to raise property taxes or levy a new tax, such as a wheel tax or some other type of tax.
Regarding local citizens purchasing beer, Pope said, “It’s something people are already doing, but they’re driving to Gibson County to spend their tax dollars, and they’re using our roads to get there.”
Pope said the Tobacco SuperStore, located on the outskirts of Greenfield, “gets 90 percent of its foot traffic from Greenfield citizens, who go there to purchase beer. It’s ridiculous we’re not getting any tax money from that.”
Monroe said, “I know there are several people who have come here and appealed to you on a moral basis, and I know some of you have endured severe and harsh criticism. I’m not here to criticize. I’m here to appeal to you. I’m morally opposed to this.”
Monroe asked how the property where Tobacco SuperStore is located was “grandfathered-in” – by location, ownership or the business itself.
City Attorney Beau Pemberton stated the business, which has been in operation for several decades, was grandfathered-in based on prior usage and location.
Pemberton explained the store was selling beer before the current ordinance that has the 2,000-feet rule was passed. He noted, when the property changed ownership, it did not stop selling beer. However, if it ever stops selling beer, or discontinues operation, a new owner would be required to apply for a beer license, based on the ordinance on the books at that time.
Pope stated the prior owner of Puckett Grocery sold the business, and it is now the Tobacco SuperStore, which also sells beer. Pope noted the store has been selling beer at that location under different owners for at least 40 years.
As far as the location of the store is concerned, it is outside the 2,000-feet restriction currently in effect.
Monroe stated Greenfield is the only city in the county that doesn’t sell beer and, “We have something here that nobody else has. We have tried to separate ourselves. I think, as a community, we can stand proud that we don’t allow that here.” Monroe urged the city to keep the 2,000-feet rule in place.
Regarding the additional sales tax revenue that would be generated for improving city streets, Monroe argued the streets in other municipalities in the county that sell beer are in no better shape than those in Greenfield. Monroe stated three of the other four cities in the county already have wheel taxes in place, and their streets are no better.
Alderman Pope said Monroe is a very nice individual, but his statement regarding streets in other cities is not correct. Pope states the taxes collected for beer sales in those cities is not earmarked for road improvements as they would be under Greenfield’s proposed beer ordinance.
“If you put (the beer tax) in place, I don’t think it’s going to have that great of an impact,” Monroe said.
The next speaker was Union City bar owner Michael Stout, who grew up in Weakley County and owns property in Greenfield. Stout said he has been in the bar business all of his life. Stout stated his father was a very godly man, but his grandfather was an avid alcoholic. “I’m kind of in the middle,” Stout said. “To me, beer tastes like horse urine. I’m a hard liquor man, if I drink anything. But I will tell you this, your wheel tax is not going to touch me. I’m a property owner here in Greenfield and I pay taxes here, but I do not live here.”
Concerning paving city streets, Stout said, “When I worked for Ford Construction, I helped to build this four-lane highway. I paved many of the streets in Greenfield. I know exactly what roads cost now. Approximately 10 years ago, the average price for asphalt was $30 per ton, but it now costs $130 per ton.
“Mr. Clint said we had ‘chosen’ not to have alcohol in this community,” Stout said. “That’s not true.”
Stout stated the reason for restricting the sale of alcohol was because of the four-lane highway that came through Greenfield. This refers to the Highway 45 construction project, which involved the state purchasing property that displaced two Greenfield bars on South Meridian – Mullins Club and Western Coral. This eliminated the only properties in the area that could qualify under the 2,000-feet rule. The Stardust bar was already closed at that time. He mentioned that White City bar in Sharon was also operating at that time.
“We had all of these bars in these towns,” Stout recalled. “These were not just beer sales. This was partying. Everybody’s parents and even some of you in this room visited these establishments over the years. I think we still have a pretty moral compass in this town.
“If we want to talk about what’s hurting the community right now, we have more of a meth problem than we do an alcohol problem.”
Stout stated his father was a member of First Baptist Church, which built its new church within the 2,000-feet distance requirement from an establishment that sold beer. But because the store, currently Tobacco SuperStore, was already there prior to the church being constructed, the city could not prevent the business from continuing to sell beer at that location. Stout stated nobody forced the church to build a church at that location – they chose to do so.
“Corporate religion has influenced this town a lot and it has cost this town a lot,” Stout said. As an example, he mentioned the old First Baptist Church building, located on the west side of the Hwy. 45 four-lane in the downtown area, was offered to the City of Greenfield at a really good price with no interest. According to Stout, it was a perfectly good building, which would have served well as a new city hall, with room for a police station. It had a kitchen, parking lot, and basketball courts. However, the reason the city didn’t buy it, was because some of the other local churches were upset because they thought another church would benefit from the sale.
Stout stated he believes in God, but everybody is responsible for themselves. “It’s not 1960. We have all different kinds of people here now that we didn’t have back then, and it’s your job to stand up for all of them,” Stout said.
Referring to a statement made on Facebook that there would be little benefit realized from the sales tax on beer sales, Stout said, “Common sense tells me, if Milan has three liquor stores, two or three bars, and businesses selling beer, they had to do it for a reason. There had to be money in it. There had to be tax dollars in it. In the state of Tennessee, $4.6 billion is taken in from alcohol taxes annually.”
Stout commented that a drunk driver killed his father and he is against drinking and driving. However, he stated the number of alcohol-related deaths is decreasing, while the number one cause of fatal accidents is due to cell phone use while driving.
Stout said, “We’ve got to look at what’s best for our city and what’s best for our people.”
Stout stated he doesn’t want his property taxes to increase, which he suggested is a real possibility, if the city doesn’t generate additional revenue to maintain the city’s infrastructure.
Alderman Don Allen stated this is not the kind of business he wants to come to Greenfield.
Broad Street resident, Jack Spence, addressed the board saying, “Twenty years ago, I got a Coke out of a Coke machine in front of a liquor store. A hit-and-run driver jumped the curb and left me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Police investigating the case said there was about a 90 percent chance of the driver being drunk. So, I’m personally against loosening alcohol restrictions. However, I had a nice conversation with Beau and the manager of Casey’s, and I understand their side too. I just hope you’ll do what’s best for the city.
“I go to First Baptist Church, and nobody’s going to drag me into the store and force me to buy a beer; and I doubt anybody’s going to show up to church drunk.”
Spence also took the opportunity to thank the city for installing new sidewalks along North Front Street. Spence stated he is an ADA-certified specialist, who has worked for state and municipal governments for many years. He noted the new sidewalk is comparable to those installed in any big city. “You’ve done a wonderful job,” Spence said.
The sidewalk work, which was paid for with the city’s COVID-relief funding, extends from Wimpy’s Corner restaurant to the old Greenfield Bank (Simmons Bank). The sidewalk is 150-feet long, and ADA accessible.
Former Greenfield City Alderman Paul Richmond argued church and state should be kept separate. He said, “Your choice is to do what’s best for our city.” He noted, during the 1940s, there were scores of businesses in Greenfield, the local economy was booming, and beer was readily available. “People knew back then that you can’t legislate morality,” Richmond said.
He remarked people who will not go into local businesses where alcohol is sold have no problem going into Walmart or other such stores that sell beer.
After hearing comments from several local citizens, both for and against the amended beer ordinance, the board approved the ordinance 4-3 on second reading. Alderpersons voting in favor of the ordinance were: Bobby Morris, James Roy Pope and Mark Galey. Those opposing the measure were: Donald Ray High, Leanna Stephenson and Don Allen. Mayor McAdams broke the tie by voting for the amendment. Alderpersons Chris Turbyville and Kelly Keylon were absent.
Since the revised ordinance requires passage on three readings, it will not be officially approved until after a third vote during the July board meeting.
After the meeting, Alderman Pope said of the beer ordinance revision, “It’s been very controversial. We’ve had pastors that have come forward and stated their dislike of it. Some have been nice about it and some have been not so nice.” He stated a lot of local citizens say they’d rather attract a lot of businesses to town to increase local tax revenue, instead of Greenfield having to levee a wheel tax, raise property taxes, or some other kind of tax.
See video of Greenfield’s June 14 board meeting on the City of Greenfield’s Facebook page at Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/CityofGreenfieldTN/