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Beer sales in county still debated

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 4/22/23

A request was made at Tuesday’s Rules and Legislative Committee to change the distance rule to sell beer in the county to zero feet. 

A petition for this change was made by Bedford …

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Beer sales in county still debated


A request was made at Tuesday’s Rules and Legislative Committee to change the distance rule to sell beer in the county to zero feet. 

A petition for this change was made by Bedford Market, Sunchaser’s Market, and Halls Mill Market in support of their request. The petition states, "Bedford County currently does not allow any businesses within 2,000 feet of a church, school, or public gathering place to sell beer.

“To compete and thrive in these community retail hubs, we would like the County Commission to change the current statute to match what is supported in the City of Shelbyville, TN (0' feet). The petitioners further state this change ‘would provide additional tax revenue for the county through both retail and tourism growth and demonstrates support for local small businesses and community hubs by allowing them to compete and thrive.’”

Some 340 signatures were gathered. However, Committee chairman and Commissioner Biff Farrar said, “Petitions hold some water but not much…When you go to zero distance it affects the whole county. I don’t think any of us coming from the school side — which I taught school for 20 years and was an administrator for 14 — want any type of beer sold next to schools. And that’s what’s going to happen if it goes to zero.”

Tracy Strassner, co-owner of Sunchaser Market in Flat Creek (which is just under seven miles away from Liberty School), led the discussion for changing the distance rule.

She gave the example that a typical sale could include two sandwiches, a bag of chips, a bag of ice, and a 12-pack of beer, which would total to $36. About $3.50 of that goes to sales tax. If this were to happen five times in one day, the potential additional annual sales tax income would be over $5,000 from her store. This would in turn, combining the three county stores, provide anywhere from $45,000 to $60,000 in potential annual county sales tax income increases, according to Strassner.

“But if you can’t sell that 12-pack of beer with it, that sale in my store goes over the county line. All that sales tax goes to Moore County,” said Strassner.

As a result, allowing beer sales will allow these small businesses to compete and contribute to the local economy.

However, the decision was deferred for yet another 30 days at Tuesday’s meeting. This was motioned by Commissioner Greg Vick who said the three stores need to come up with an exact distance and how this will affect zoning. “I think the chairman has made it clear…that we’re not going to move in a hurry on stuff. We’re going to let everyone talk,” said Vick.  

Farrar added, “We all want you to compete and contribute to your community, but this issue is pretty big.”

Citing TCA 57-5-105, Farrar read, “No beer will be sold except at places where such sales will not cause congestion of traffic…or interference with schools, churches, other places of public gathering.”

“This goes further,” Farrar continued. “Public safety, public health, and morals…So churches do have a stance here.” He also said about 80 buses go about their normal bus routes twice a day, which include going in front of these markets.

“These 18 commissioners have got to consider all the county, not just three markets,” said Farrar. “The question is safety…and I think there’s some morals in there because it says so in the statute.”

The next Rules and Legislative Committee meeting will be May 16 at 5 p.m. in the community room of the Bedford County Courthouse.