County looks to extend bar closing time

-A A +A
By Lou Elliott Jones

The Levy County Commission has agreed to take a look at possibly revising the ordinance that dictates the hours for alcoholic beverage sales – currently between 7 a.m. and midnight – at the request of a restaurant and bar owner who says the midnight closing is costing him business.

Tom Trammell, owner of Williard's Restaurant and Bar, said customers leave his bar after last call at 11:45 p.m. and head to neighboring counties where the pour goes on until 2 a.m. He asked the commission at its Tuesday meeting to consider changing the ordinance. 

Trammell said it would help the county by providing sales tax revenue on the drinks – and possibly food – sold. 

Commission Chair Danny Stevens of Williston (D-District 5) said the commission would incur a lot of work and would have to hold a public hearing on any change to the ordinance. Stevens also said it would be expected that when the economy is slow it would affect business. 

Trammell said, “I would appreciate it if you folks would consider and talk about it.”

Commissioner Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) said he is sympathetic to Trammel's situation. He noted that when liquor stops being served in Chiefland, customers head up U.S. Highway 19 to Fanning Springs where liquor sales do not stop until 2 a.m. “I would be in support of taking a look at it,” Bell said. Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) said he favored taking a look at the ordinance. 

Although he expressed reluctance, Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) offered the last opinion needed for a consensus to ask County Attorney Anne Bast Brown to do the research on the county alcohol ordinance and possible changes. 

“I have no problem looking at the ordinance, but you're probably looking at the public hearing being at the courtroom,” Johnson said, referring to Courtroom A which can hold more citizens, likely those protesting any change in serving hours, than the commission meeting room. “Be prepared for a lengthy debate on that.”

Meeks said, “It's not a popular stance, but this man is in business and paying taxes,”  He said he would rather have customers consuming in the controlled environment of a business “rather than gathering around a bonfire in the woods somewhere.” He said service staff know when to cut a customer off and can arrange a ride home if someone is incapable of driving. 

Only three businesses in the unincorporated county would be affected by a time change: Williard's I Williston, Sun Ray Tavern in Morriston and Beef O'Brady's in Chiefland.