Ephraim Untangles Alcohol Ordinances

Before Ephraim can begin issuing alcohol licenses, it first must handle a major change to the ordinance that has permeated into many chapters of the village code. On top of approving Chapter 15, the village ordinance on alcohol licensing, the village must also repeal all of the ordinances that prohibited alcohol in the first place.

Jim Kalny, the village’s attorney, sat in guidance at the May 19 special meeting of the Ephraim village board to discuss the changes to the village code in regard to alcohol licensing.

“We have to make sure that we initiate the process for the new zoning regulation and that we initiate the process for getting rid of the old legislation the proper way,” said Kalny.

Getting rid of the old legislation in the proper way is what pushes the timeline serving alcohol in Ephraim back to what the village hopes will be early July.

The ordinance that has prohibited alcohol in Ephraim for its 163-year history sits in the middle of the village’s zoning code. Under state law, any changes to the zoning code must begin in the Planning Committee and be recommended to the village board. Changes to zoning also require a public hearing. The village board hopes to take all of these steps by its next regularly scheduled meeting on June 14.

“You do have a zoning provision you have to get off the books but if everything goes real well, we might be ready by July 1,” said Kalny.

Todd Bennett, owner of the Chef’s Hat in Ephraim, shook his head at Kalny’s statement, believing the village has already taken too long.

“I have never ever heard, from calling some people, a month and a half in and you’re still nowhere,” said Bennett outside of the meeting. “They’re still slowing the process. They’re not moving as fast as they can because if they would have they would have had those things removed.”

One of those things that could have been removed immediately is the section of the public nuisance ordinance that marks any place that serves alcohol as an illegal public nuisance. Bennett would have also liked to have the zoning issues be sent to the Planning Committee right after the April 5 vote. Now, the village board will likely have to call another special meeting following the Planning Committees approval to set a public hearing for the zoning changes.

“We can’t act on 15 [the new alcohol ordinance] until we get rid of these provisions,” said Mike McCutcheon, president of the village board. “We’ll do it all at the same time.”

The village board hopes that time will be the June 14 board meeting, which will likely include the required public hearing. If no changes come out of the public hearing and the board votes to approve the ordinance, it will be effective on that day and business owners can send in their applications for beer and wine licenses.

The most contentious issue that will feed debate at the public hearing is whether alcohol consumption should be allowed at public parks.

While the board agreed that open containers should be prohibited on public sidewalks, McCutcheon and board member Tim Nelson felt beer and wine consumption should be allowed in public parks.

“Parks is probably acceptable, for me it is, to sit with a glass of wine or a beer. It’s when you pick it up and walk down the road with it, I don’t know if that is such a great thing,” said Nelson.

Board members Jim Stollenwerk and Paul Roppold were against the idea until they could see the effects of the ordinance play out through the summer. Cindy Nelson, who was appointed to the board at the beginning of the May 19 special meeting to fill the vacancy left by Jane Olson, did not comment on alcohol consumption in public parks.

If the alcohol ordinance is approved at the June 14 meeting and the applications flow in to the village offices, there is still a 15-day waiting period before the license is granted. This waiting period is used to publish the information of the applicant in a local newspaper, as required by state law.

Under this timeline, the earliest that any business could legally serve a drink in Ephraim is June 29.

But 24 hours later, that beer or wine license would expire.

Under state law, alcohol licenses expire on June 30 every year and new ones begin on July 1.

“Assuming things go off without a hitch, it seems to be laying itself out fairly well for that early July, which is consistent with licenses themselves,” said Brent Bristol, village administrator.

But an applicant can get a prorated license any time of year, and Bennett will seek his beer and wine license as soon as he can.

“They [the board] are trying to tell me July 1 but right in the state statutes it’s prorated per day,” said Bennett. “Obviously for my sake owning a business, I really don’t want to go into Fourth of July weekend and throw all this into the mix, to be honest with you. Will I? Absolutely.”

The Planning Committee met on May 24 and voted to approve the needed zoning changes, which will now go to the village board for final approval. The village board will likely hold a special meeting before their regularly scheduled June 14 board meeting to make this approval.

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