Opp approves liquor license

Published 1:18 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

After hearing from proponents on both sides of the issue of alcohol sales, members of the Opp City Council voted at Monday’s meeting to approve a liquor license for a new Mexican restaurant.

The council unanimously voted to grant the restaurant retail liquor license to Rancho Grande Grill, which will be located at 113 S. Main St. The council had previously tabled the matter at the Feb. 2 city council meeting.

Paul Dierberger, co-owner of the restaurant, said he was proud of the council’s decision.

“I think it’s important for the future of business in Opp,” he said. “It’s important for restaurants to be able to offer this dimension to their dining experience.”

Earlier in the meeting, Dr. Rick Butler, pastor of Eden Fellowship Church, voiced his concerns about the license request.

“I have no problem with a man’s business and what he wants to put in,” said Butler, who also operates a business on Main Street. “But if it becomes where it could be in opposition to the standards that our church, and hopefully our community, stand for, then we need to say something about it.

“I’ve talked to other pastors in the city and they have also told me that they’re in opposition to this.”

Prior to the council’s vote, Dierberger stood up from the audience and requested permission to state his case. Although Dierberger was not on the city’s agenda, Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar granted the businessman the opportunity to speak.

“I want to point out a few facts about this request,” he said. “First of all, we intend to serve drinks only with meals; there will be no bar in the establishment whatsoever. Secondly, we intend to impose a two-drink limit on anybody ordering beverages at the establishment.

“What that does is effectively preclude anybody from leaving the establishment under an impaired condition.”

Dierberger added that this policy would be put in writing and would be printed on the menus in the restaurant.

“I think that (serving drinks) adds an additional dimension to the dining experience,” he said. “I hope that our policies and procedures that we’re going to adopt will preclude the negative consequences that were so eloquently outlined (by Dr. Butler).”

Following the vote, District 1 Councilman Scotty Short explained how he arrived at the decision to vote in favor of the request.

“I’d just like to say that I thought long and hard about it and had a lot of discussion,” he said. “But I see a lot of church folks right out there at Vera Cruz and at Howard’s, and I just don’t see how this gentleman here can make his business without (being able to serve drinks) in the type of restaurant he is in.”

District 3 Councilman Mickey Crew publicly declared at the Feb. 2 meeting that he was not in favor of granting the liquor license. He said Monday, following the meeting, that he changed his mind after talking with the public.

“Well, one reason I voted for it was because there’s no legal reason why the guy cannot have this license,” Crew said. “But the main reason was because I’ve visited a lot of the people who operate businesses in the general area around the restaurant, and none of them were complaining about it.”

Butler was disappointed in the council’s decision.

“I just believe this will prove harmful to Opp in the days to come,” he said. “I think this is counter-productive to the image that we want for Opp as a great place to raise a family.”

In other business, the council:

Approved to abate a property owned by Hinton Elmore, located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Hart Avenue and Spurlin Street, for violation of several city ordinances including litter and weeds.

Approved placing a four-way stop at the intersection of Maloy Street and Old Perry’s Store Road.

Discussed purchasing advertising space on a billboard outside the South Alabama Regional Airport, as well as buying a digital sign that would be located at the intersection of Highways 84 and 331, for the purpose of advertising the city of Opp and its businesses.

Accepted a U.S. flag that initially belonged to Opp Health and Rehab resident Melfred Welker. The flag was initially given to Welker in memory of his son, a Vietnam War veteran who died in 2007.

“We certainly thank him and our prayers and thoughts go out to him and his family,” Edgar said. “We’ll see (this) flag fly before too long.”