Oneonta slashes liquor fees, redefines lounge

In last week’s meeting, city manager-economic developer Ed Lowe won approval for his recommendations that the Oneonta City Council redefine the word “lounge” in its business code and alter its charges for most of its liquor enterprises. As now defined, “lounge” will permit what many would label a bar and the fee changes increase two categories, one by $50 another by $150, while slashing others.

In a 5:20 p.m. public hearing immediately prior to the council’s regular session, Lowe explained that the state ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) Board has urged setting local governing licensing fees at 50 percent of the ABC license fee. No one spoke on the proposed changes at the hearing.

The two categories raised are: “annual special events” up $50 to $250 and “importer” up $150 to $500. Lounges, shown as “bar, nightclub, etc.,” drop the most (down $4850 to $150), with lounge explained as “package store” dropping the next highest (down $2850 to $150).

The code formerly defined “lounge” as “an establishment which sells retail liquor to the public for off-premises consumption, to a package store or to an ABC store.” The expanded new definition reads: “An establishment that sells retail liquor for the following purposes: (a) Class I will permit the licensee to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises and off-premises consumption. All sales for off-premises consumption shall be in original unopened containers. (b) Class II will permit the licensee to sell alcoholic beverages only for off-premises consumption in the original unopened containers.”

Beyond those changes, the council also approved a request from Pounders Seafood Restaurant to sell beer, wine, and spirits. Pounders had originally obtained a liquor license which did not permit spirit sells. When its owners decided they would like to provide that option, they had to reapply for a new license authorizing such. The council had held a 5:15 p.m. public hearing on that request, which had already cleared the city alcohol license review committee. As in the 5:20 p.m. public hearing, no one spoke on the matter.

In police department business, the council accepted the resignation of parttime officer John Davidson and voted to advertise for three part-time positions. They also accepted Councilman Richard Phillips’s recommendation to hire parttime officer Vernarr Hughes as full time.

Later in the session, Phillips won approval to lease nine Tasers for the department at an eventual future price of $4,700. As discussed at the council’s May 9 meeting, the supplier will reduce the first year’s lease by the value of the department’s existing Tasers as trade-ins.

In park and recreation matters, Councilman Nathaniel Butler recommended hiring David Elliot as a maintenance worker in that department and McKenzie Adams as a part-time seasonal lifeguard. The council approved both.

During his closing remarks, Butler invited coaches and players of the Fury youth soccer team to introduce themselves to the council and attendees. The team won the state U12 championship.

Francisco Alvarado, Emiliano Cervantes, Angel Chacon, Chris Chacon, Emiliano Espinoza, Reynaldo Gonzalez, Daniel Hernandez, Isaac McMinn, Gabriella Piceno, Gerardo Piceno, Jose Piceno, Jadon Sheldon, Finn Sherrer, Tucker Wallace, and Luis Zavala comprise the players who are coached by John Sheldon, Jared Sheldon, and Mike McMinn.

In his report, Lowe advised the council that the presently under construction Zaxby’s restaurant intends to seek council approval for the $150,000 sales tax waiver already provided the recently opened SwampTails.

Mayor Ross Norris won council approval to hold a mid-year financial review meeting after the next regular council meeting on June 27. Members also set a meeting for June 29 at 5:15 p.m. to review the city school system’s strategic plan.

Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce director Aimee Wilson reported planned changes to the October Covered Bridge Festival. She indicated intentions to move vendors to mid-street sites to permit easier access for business establishments. She advised that the change will reduce vendor numbers but that she prefers quality to quantity. She also noted that the chamber is in discussion with the Blount County- Oneonta Agri-Business Center to coordinate an expanded Christmas event.

Councilman Danny Robinson missed the June 13 meeting. Councilors Hal Blackwood and Tonya Rogers joined Norris, Phillips, and Butler for the session. The council holds its regular meetings the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.