Over the protests of about 25 to 30 people from several churches in the area the Lafayette City Council approved the two beer ordinances on second reading that were on the Oct. 12 agenda.

The council passed both the sale of beer in restaurants and the sale of beer on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., by a vote of 4-2. Council members voting for the measures included Tom Roberts, David Kempf, Jeff Hudson and Debra Harris. Jason Phelps and Steve Turner voted no on both proposals.

The measures were originally discussed at an Aug. 12 council meeting, and failed with three votes in favor and two against. The Lafayette city charter requires four votes for passage, and Councilman Roberts was unable to attend that meeting due to an illness.

A group of people prayed and sang outside in the parking lot prior to the vote, just as they had previously in the August meeting. Several of those people came inside to hear the vote.

After the council meeting, Councilman Hudson explained his reasoning for voting for the beer sales, saying that it was a business decision for the city, and that the majority of people who have contacted him prior to the vote were in favor of its passage.

“I’ve had about 50 people contact me for it. A lot of people that said, ‘I go to church every Sunday, but this should have been done years ago. It’s crazy.’ I had about three or four people contact me against it,” Hudson said. “One of those ladies told me, ‘I’m not for it, but if you think it’s the best choice for the city, then you should do it.’ It was overwhelming for it. I know the people that showed up are against it, but it’s just a financial decision. We already have beer here. It’s almost like we already have the bad side of alcohol — and there is a bad side — but we don’t have the good side, which is the revenue. The way I look at it, we’re just fixing that problem.”

In casting a no vote, Councilman Phelps echoed the sentiments of those who had gathered outside city hall against the ordinance.

“With my religious beliefs. I couldn’t vote for it. That’s really about all there is to that,” Phelps said. “At the end of the day, it’s a business decision for the city, but I couldn’t support it. It’ll bring in revenue and that’s great, but I couldn’t support it.”

Kevin Harrison, pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Macon County, spoke for the group outside who opposed beer sales.

“The fact of the matter is that we don’t believe in alcohol at all. That’s not the case in the county, but we certainly don’t want alcohol sold by the drink and we don’t want alcohol sold on Sunday. It looks like we could give the Lord one day, if we ain’t going to give him the other six,” Harrison said. “That’s how we feel about it. We don’t want to run nobody down because of their feelings, but we don’t believe it’s a good thing. It can lead to an element and a hurt to the community that we don’t need.”

In passing the two ordinances on second reading, there was no public hearing to allow citizens either for or against the measure an opportunity to voice their opinions to Mayor Jerry Wilmore and the council members. According to city attorney Jimmy White, the city charter did not allow for a public hearing.

“The law doesn’t require a public hearing. Usually it’s by statute or in the city’s charter as to determine whether or not something requires a public hearing,” White said.

The battle regarding alcohol sales in Lafayette may not be over. According to Hudson, another issue could soon be before the public.

“The next fight will be totally different, because there is petition going around for package liquor stores and liquor by the drink,” he said.

If those measures are discussed, they will have to be decided by a referendum, which would be voted upon by all registered voters.

Currently, the city of Lafayette does not have liquor stores, nor does it sell liquor by the drink. Neighboring Red Boiling Springs and Westmoreland both have passed the sale of package liquor in recent years.

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