ANNA MARIA – A memo City Attorney Becky Vose sent Mayor Dan Murphy clarifies the city commission’s recent decision to not amend the city’s liquor ordinance.
The potential amendment drafted by Vose and discussed at a special commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29, could have paved the way for Brian Seymour to open a takeout package liquor store next to his Anna Maria General Store.
City ordinance currently prohibits liquor sales within 2,500 feet of a church. The draft ordinance language Vose drafted provided the commission the means to allow liquor sales within 2,500 feet of the Roser Memorial Community Church if it wished to do so.
Located across the street from the church on Pine Avenue, Seymour’s general store already sells takeout beer and wine for off-site consumption.
Seymour planned to open his package liquor store next door to his general store in one side of the newly divided two-unit retail space that also houses the Island Charms retail store. Island Charms plans to reopen this week in the other side of the recently reconfigured retail space.
Vose sent Murphy her memo to Murphy on Tuesday, Aug. 27, but the legal opinions contained in that memo were not discussed in detail during the special meeting held later that week.
Vose’s legal opinion contrasted the opinion City Planner Robin Meyer provided Seymour via email on Monday, Aug. 26. In that email, Meyer stated his opinion that the sale of alcohol to be consumed off-premises is a normal retail sale and is not covered by the city ordinance. Citing Florida Statute 563.02, Meyer’s email also said state law clearly states that licensing is different for establishments that sell alcohol for off-premise consumption.
“It is my interpretation of this section that the city must treat any business selling alcohol for consumption off-premises as a normal retail use, and we are banned by state law from placing any other restrictions on them,” Meyer’s email said.
Meyer included a copy of the state statute law he referenced but failed to note that it applied to beer and malt beverages only.
In her memo, Vose addressed Meyer’s email to Seymour.
“I have reviewed the following email from the city planner and have researched the applicable city code provisions and Florida Statutes. The opinion rendered in the email is incorrect. The Florida Statute quoted in the city planner’s opinion only and exclusively refers to the sales of beer and malt beverages. Chapter 563 of the Florida Statutes deals exclusively with beer and malt beverages, not liquor as dealt with in other portions of the Florida Statutes,” she wrote.
“The correct answer to Mr. Seymour’s question is that the package sale of liquor is currently not permitted within 2,500 feet of a church in the city of Anna Maria due to the legally enforceable provision of the Anna Maria city code,” Vose’s memo concluded.
During the Aug. 29 special commission meeting, it was noted an exception for onsite liquor consumption was previously granted to the Waterfront restaurant. It was also noted Bortell’s Lounge – which remains closed – was grandfathered in and allowed to continue serving and selling liquor because it predates the ordinance adopted in the late 1980s.
After commissioners Carol Carter, Doug Copeland, Amy Tripp and Dale Woodland rendered their unanimous decision, Seymour was later able to get out of his contractual obligations regarding the purchase of a liquor license and the long-term lease of the additional retail space.
Citing the need to focus more time on his business ventures and his personal life, Seymour also resigned from the city commission after three years of service.