McMinnville officials are revisiting a controversial issue pertaining to removing a 300-foot distance requirement between churches, schools and places that sell beer.
During its first consideration before the board in late 2014, the measure passed 4-3 on first read and failed 4-3 on final read. Switching sides and stopping the movement in its tracks was Mayor Jimmy Haley.
When contacted Tuesday, Haley says he is considering the measure and has yet to make a final decision on which way he will vote.
“I don’t know how I feel right now,” he said. “I’m considering it. I haven’t talked to anyone on how they will vote. I don’t know how this will go. Right now, I’m just weighing all the options.”
Speculation is this issue is being revisited to sell alcoholic beverages at Park Theater, which would require the removal of the restriction given its proximity to a church. The last time the issue was discussed was the possibility of a restaurant that served alcoholic beverages wanting to use the old New York Grill building, but Oasis is located within 300 feet.
Haley denies this issue is tied to Park Theater exclusively.
“I know there have been some restaurants interested,” he said. “This is not just about Park Theater.”
In polling the rest of the board members, Aldermen Mike Neal and Jimmy Bonner are definitely against removing the 300-foot distance requirement.
“I am still against this,” said Neal. “I haven’t changed my position on it. I think it has, primarily, to do with the New York Grill building.”
Neal says, according to city attorney Tim Pirtle, Oasis is not a state-recognized church and it should not be considered as such in a beer permit request.
“In my conversations with the city attorney, if he had to offer an opinion as to whether or not someone can occupy that building and serve alcohol in it, he would say yes. As far as he knows, Oasis has never filed state paperwork identifying themselves as a church. He said until they do that, as far as he is concerned, it’s not a church. We shouldn’t have to remove the 300-foot distance if they are not a church,” said Neal.
Aldermen Everett Brock, Ryle Chastain and Ben Newman voiced approval for removing the 300-foot distance requirement.
“I’m going to vote for it,” said Brock. “There is no reason not to. I’m a little bothered someone hasn’t come in asking for us to remove this restriction in order to put something in the building. Nobody has requested this change. They still haven’t. I feel a little bad about that. Philosophically, I’m not against this. It doesn’t make a difference to me if it’s 300 feet or six inches. It might help some growth downtown.”
Brock says he has heard the same information as Neal regarding Oasis not being a state-recognized church.
“Tim has always said this is not officially a church because they are not registered with the state as a church. He says he could make a good case they are not a church the way it is,” said Brock.
When contacted, Alderman Steve Harvey declined to comment. However, he did voice in an open forum during his election campaign he would be in favor of removing the distance restriction.