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Pastors want anti-liquor laws in place

By By Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
With the move to legalize liquor sales in Hartselle picking up steam, some people – including members of the area ministerial association – are already looking for ways to limit any future alcohol sales in the city.
Dr. Ron Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church and secretary of the Hartselle Ministerial Association, said his group is working to have provisional laws in place if liquor sales are legalized in the city. The laws would include such things as where and when alcohol can be sold.
"Our concern is if the issue gets on the ballot and passes, we need to have ordinances established prior to that," Wilson said. "We need to already have determined that sales cannot take place near churches, schools, parks and senior citizen centers."
Those wanting to limit liquor sales are apparently working under a November deadline, as the city is currently in the process of certifying the signatures on the petition calling for the wet/dry referendum. City Clerk Rita Lee will certify the signatures. Once certified, the council will vote whether to hold the referendum. According to Mayor Clif Knight, the referendum will probably be held Nov. 5, the same time as the statewide general election.
The ministerial association is being joined by one of the state's conservative heavy hitters, Dr. Dan Ireland. Ireland is executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program and has been involved in wet/dry votes throughout the state, as well as being credited with helping defeat Gov. Don Siegelman's education lottery proposal.
Ireland joined several Hartselle ministers at a city council work session Monday night. He stressed the importance of having laws ready in case Hartselle voters approve liquor sales.
"The main authority over liquor sales is local," Ireland said. "If you do not have ordinance in place locally, ABC (Alabama Beverage Control board) has no standing."
Ireland said there is no state law regarding how far away liquor sales must be from churches, schools, parks or senior centers. Any regulations, such as those saying all alcohol sales must be 500 feet from any designated place, have to be passed by the city council.
City Attorney Larry Madison said if liquor ales are approved, the city council will be able to vote to approve or reject licenses, but can only do so on a limited basis.
"You can regulate it, but you can not have regulations so restrictive that it prevents anyone from selling alcohol," Madison said.
Ireland said he hopes the matter never makes it past November's referendum.
"It's my prayer and my hope that it never passes," he said.