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City approves liquor license for Harold's

By Ed Brock

ebrock@news-daily.com

Harold's Barbecue should be adding beer to the menu soon after a vote by the city council cleared the way to the issuance of the restaurant's license to pour.

Members of a nearby church came to the council's Monday night meeting to protest the issuance of a license, saying state law prohibits it. The council voted to approve the license, with three council members in opposition and Mayor Joy Day breaking the tie by voting to approve, before the congregation and their pastor were allowed to speak.

Day said a public hearing had already been held on the license in early May.

"It makes no difference what we think," one member of the Church of God of Prophecy said.

"You are out of order and you are going to be asked to leave," Day told the group as they continued to protest.

Lisa Ison, owner of Harold's Barbecue on Ga. Highway 54 just north of Ga. Highway 138, will be required to perform expensive remodeling to her building in order to qualify for the license to serve alcohol. She said

previously that it's worthwhile.

"A lot of people tell me that when they get off work and go to get dinner, they want a beer with dinner," Ison said.

Ison's application was tabled at a prior meeting so the council could consider the distance required by state law between the restaurant's front door and the property line of the Church of God of Prophecy next door, Walker said. That law requires a separation of 100 yards between the two points.

But the Rev. Gary Lewis, the church's pastor, told the council they were reading the state law incorrectly.

"Under state law it's not from door to door it's from property line to property line, which in our case is about 15 yards," Lewis said. "By passing this you have already broken the law."

City Manager Jon Walker said the city had brought the issue to their attorney and he approved it.

"We will make sure prior to any license being issued that we are within the law as our attorney interprets," Walker said.

Church members are also concerned about the effect alcohol sales would have on the community, Lewis said. In the neighborhood behind the church and the restaurant police responded to more than 400 calls last year, he said, many of which were related to alcohol.

Ison insists that she runs a restaurant and is not turning into a bar. Her manager Tony Davidson told the council that Harold's is "an honorable business."

"It has a reputation it has to uphold ... it will uphold," Davidson said.

Other people in the audience, members of the group Jonesboro Pride who were there to criticize city officials on other topics, thanked the council for it's decision to grant the license.

"I think it's the right thing to do for the city of Jonesboro," said Roger Grider.

Voters approved the liquor sales last year in a referendum.

Also at Monday night's meeting the council held its second reading of an amendment to its ordinance regulating adult entertainment in the city, but tabled the approval of the ordinance until the next meeting.

Previously the only definition the city had in its ordinances was whether a certain business made more than 10 percent of its sales from adult entertainment items, like adult video tapes. Under a new ordinance, if it is passed, the definition of adult entertainment will include any business that carries more than 10 square feet of floor space stocked with adult entertainment items.

It would also lower the sales percentage requirement to 5 percent and any business that ever advertises its products using the terms "adult" or "XXX" is an adult entertainment business.

One or two companies may be required to come into compliance if the new law is passed, Walker said, but he did not specify which stores.

New York Video on Tara Boulevard is known to sell adult entertainment items and is in a commercial zone. Manager Kyle Moncrief did not attend Monday's meeting.

"I really don't think it's going to affect us," Moncrief said.