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County weighs in on alcohol license dispute

The McDuffie County Commission has been pulled into a cocktail clash.

On one side is the owner of Washington Road Package store, on the other is the owner of Wall to Wall Package Shop. In the middle is a single alcohol license.

Commissioners voted unanimously last week to allow Wall to Wall owner Keith Wall to keep an alcohol license they'd awarded him in late October. His license will take effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton said that revoking Mr. Wall's license just wasn't something commissioners were willing to do.

"Taking someone's liquor license back is a fairly serious thing. My feeling was that the board didn't feel like there was enough evidence there," he said.

The license was back in front of commissioners last week because Leona Felix, owner of Washington Road Package Store, claimed that Mr. Wall violated the county's alcoholic beverage ordinance when he didn't post his application for the license for the required 30 days.

She presented six witnesses to commissioners, all stating that they remember Mr. Wall's sign posted on Oct. 7 and taken down Oct. 27.

"I know when he put his sign up," she said. "I marked it on my calendar."

Mr. Wall owns the building where Ms. Felix and Washington Road Package Store currently operate. According to Mr. Wall, her lease expires soon, and Wall to Wall Package Store will use Washington Road Package Store's building beginning in January.

Mr. Wall claimed that he had hung the notice around Oct. 18, but ended up changing the location of it because the wind kept blowing it down. That way, Mr. Wall said, it's possible that the witnesses simply didn't see the sign in its original location. He provided two sworn statements from people who said they saw the sign posted in an alternate location.

McDuffie County Attorney Sammy Fowler told the commissioners shortly before they voted that even if they didn't think the sign was up for the necessary 30 days, that doesn't mean they were compelled to revoke the ordinance. Instead, they were to decide if the spirit of the ordinance had been met.

Mr. Fowler also noted that the posting procedure is in place to notify the public of the application for an alcoholic beverage license to allow for feedback. In this case, a liquor store had been on the property in question for 17 years, so there was a small possibility of any public complaints about the license.

"There have been no complaints made about liquor being sold at that location. The purpose of the statute has been met, and the spirit of the statute has been met, and according to our testimony, the letter of the law has been met," said Bubba Swan, Mr. Wall's attorney.

Meanwhile, Mr. Newton said that steps are already being taken to ensure that the sign posting procedure is more properly documented in the future.

"We're going to make that part of it, where the applicant signs an affidavit before the meeting before the alcoholic license is to be considered," he said.

That way, Mr. Newton said, the county will have a record of the exact day the sign was posted.



Web posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003











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