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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2006
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Lauren Pruitt, left, and Steven Burnett share a kiss at Café 113 in Decatur while Christie Ledbetter, right, appears to be studiously ignoring them. There will be no midnight kisses at Café 113 on New Year's Eve because it will be closed due to Decatur's prohibition of Sunday liquor sales.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Lauren Pruitt, left, and Steven Burnett share a kiss at Café 113 in Decatur while Christie Ledbetter, right, appears to be studiously ignoring them. There will be no midnight kisses at Café 113 on New Year's Eve because it will be closed due to Decatur's prohibition of Sunday liquor sales.

Kiss the drinks goodbye
New Year's Eve in Decatur
promises to be sober affair

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com ˇ 340-2443

It's a sobering thought for many New Year's Eve revelers in the Decatur area.

Dec. 31 falls on a Sunday this year, an unfortunate fact for the residents who like to ring in the new year with a warm friend at their sides and a glass of champagne in their hands.

Like many cities in the state, Decatur doesn't allow alcohol sales on Sunday. No bars will be open for normal New Year's festivities, forcing partygoers to come up with other options.

But partygoers aren't the only ones having to make other arrangements. Bar and restaurant owners are also affected by the holiday placement.

Victor Melonas, owner of Café 113, an upscale restaurant/bar on Grant Street Southeast, said the establishment's annual New Year's Eve party usually brings in enough revenue to cover insurance for the entire year.

"New Year's is one of the best nights of the year for us — that and Valentine's Day," said Melonas.

"Of all the nights in the year, it's the last night I'd want to be closed."

The last time New Year's Eve fell on a Sunday was Dec. 31, 2000.

Melonas said he had planned for the lack of holiday profits then, but didn't account for it this year in hopes that Decatur would have approved Sunday alcohol sales by now.

It was a possibility in August this year, but was stalled by scheduling and financial concerns.

The state approved a measure in August that lets the Decatur City Council hold a Sunday alcohol referendum.

The council originally planned to let citizens vote on Sunday sales during the Nov. 7 general election.

But once again, the 2006 calendar seemed to be conspiring against Sunday drinkers. State law requires that special elections be held on the second or fourth Tuesday of the month. The general election fell on the first Tuesday of the month.

Cost factor

Holding the referendum separate from a required election would cost taxpayers about $50,000. To save money, the council delayed the referendum until the 2008 election, said District 5 Councilman Ray Metzger.

"You'd think we could hold one, and the revenue from the sales would make us at least $50,000, but you never know," said Metzger.

Some dry-Sunday cities and counties in Kentucky were able to amend their laws for New Year's Eve. In Lexington, where liquor stores and bars are closed Sundays, city officials voted to allow restaurants with more than 50 percent of sales from food to sell liquor from 1 to 11 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

Decatur, however, did not have that option. State law requires a citywide vote to approve alcohol sales on Sundays — regardless of whether that particular Sunday falls on a holiday.

Chris Nayman, a wine distributor for NBC United Wholesales, said Decatur is losing money each time a resident travels to nearby cities like Huntsville or Florence to buy alcohol on Sunday.

"People generally make a mad dash on Saturday nights, but a lot of times they'll drive to Madison or Huntsville on Sunday," he said. "You'd be amazed at the traffic to Madison."

Decatur City Council President Billy Jackson said Sunday alcohol sales are strictly a revenue issue and he hopes the council will act soon.

"Everyone's trying to pull together and make this thing happen," he said. "We're working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce to try and get it rolling."

Perhaps that will come in time to save area businesses and holiday revelers from another sober New Year's celebration. The next time New Year's Eve falls on Sunday is Dec. 31, 2017.

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