Sheriff: Liquor fees too low

Published 4:08 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith says alcohol retailers - especially bars and lounges - aren't paying enough for the services they receive.
Smith said since most private clubs operate on Sundays, additional manpower is needed in the county to handle any problems that may arise in those locations.
Escambia County commissioners reviewed the license fees for the upcoming fiscal year during Monday's commission meeting and made note of the money coming into the county coffers.
Last year, the county received $12,825 in liquor license fees, with the money being directed to the Escambia County Sheriff's department.
Currently, retailers and distributors pay annual fees that range from $150 for an off-premises, beer only license to $1,500 for a class II club liquor license.
With several different types of licenses issued in the county, most are off-premises beer or beer and wine licenses. Smith said those type of businesses don't usually require any additional manpower from his department.
Smith also indicated his desire to see a raise in the fee scale is due to a budget crunch being felt by law enforcement agencies across the state.
Smith said those who consume alcohol or make money from the sale of alcohol should be the ones to step up and pay for the service from law enforcement on their behalf.
The Alabama Beverage Control Board sets the prices for the license fees with a portion of the fees coming directly to the county in which the business is located. Those funds returned to the county go directly to the budget of the county law enforcement agency serving the area.
The ABC board typically provides assistance and special services to local law enforcement agencies should problems arise in the area of license violations.
The ABC board makes the final decision on who is issued a license to sell alcohol in the state. They are also responsible for reviewing those license renewals to determine if the business has had any violations in the previous year.
Recently, an Atmore man was shot in a nightclub following an altercation with another patron. Smith said the incident rocked the neighborhood in a way that could have been avoided.
Legislation would be necessary to see a change in the current liquor license fees across the state.
Getting legislators to agree with one county sheriff and one county commission chairman may be impossible, Sanks said.

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