With a crash of the gavel at the Ephraim Village Hall, Village Board President Mike McCutcheon announced to a standing-room only crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, history has been made.”
Ephraim took the final steps to allow beer and wine within the village at its regularly scheduled board meeting on June 14. The meeting included three public hearings on the changes to the village code. Two changes, being part of the village’s zoning ordinance, required the public hearings. The board then held another public hearing on the adoption of Chapter 15, the new ordinance regulating sale and consumption of alcohol in Ephraim, for the purpose of public interest even though it was not required by state law.
“The board wanted to do a public hearing on this,” said Jim Kalny, the village’s attorney, who was present at the meeting. “This is a police regulation. It’s designed to be consistent with the referendum, what was passed, going no further and no less.”
The first two public hearings on repealing current zoning code that prohibited alcohol in the village went by quietly. The third hearing on adoption of Chapter 15 brought questions from the audience but few complaints.
Most wanted to know where exactly beer and wine could be sold and consumed.
“Ephraim is a unique place, it always has been,” said a man in the audience. “Now we have approved having beer and wine. I think when folks voted for this, they were under the assumption that it was going to be in conjunction with food.”
It is possible that a bar dedicated only to beer and wine opens up within the village or the board allows alcohol to be consumed in public parks, but all of those decisions must go through the village board first.
“When this body [village board] is issuing the license, it’s in its strongest position,” said Kalny. “It looks at what is in the best interest of the community.”
The board will be able to reject licenses if it determines that a license application is not in the public interest. The same steps must be taken if the village looks to change any aspect of its alcohol ordinance in the future.
But there won’t be any additions to the alcohol licenses in Ephraim for at least six months. The village put a six-month moratorium on allowing different types of alcohol licenses. Only after that can they explore other types of licenses including temporary wine licenses and liquor.
The village will not allow consumption of alcohol in public parks, which some in the audience questioned the ability to enforce.
“Jim mentioned there’s probably going to be a lot of quiet violating,” said board member Tim Nelson, recognizing that people regularly violated the old ordinances prohibiting alcohol entirely. “Up until now the restaurants in Ephraim were not dry, folks.”
Anyone can now call the sheriff and report illegal alcohol consumption by pointing to a new ordinance in Ephraim.
The board unanimously passed all three topics that went to public hearing, officially making beer and wine legal in Ephraim. The applications for licenses will begin rolling in and the first legal drink can be sold on July 1.
“I want to give a thanks to the village and the way everyone has conducted themselves from the very beginning,” said McCutcheon. “I’m very proud of the way the village handled this.”