Mayfield City Council Divided Over Proposal to Prohibit Bars and Taverns

Dec 27, 2017

Mayfield City Council
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

The Mayfield City Council is divided over a proposed ordinance to prohibit bars from operating in the city.

The council held a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue. The ordinance passed its first reading earlier in December.

Upon the passage of the city's ‘wet’ vote in 2016, the city’s finance administration committee asked the state if they could prohibit bars and taverns, according to Mayor Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell, to which the state said 'no' and allowed the city to grant up to four quota drink licenses (bars and taverns selling only alcohol by the drink and no food) and four quota packaged licenses - liquor stores.

Mayfield Mayor Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

“In 2017, state law changed and gave that right to cities to ban the quota drink licenses,” she said, citing HB183 (an omnibus alcohol bill). “With the exit of the only bar in Mayfield and with no applications from any other potential bar establishments there was a window of opportunity for the finance administration committee to go back to their original thoughts for the ordinance that would regulate the sale of alcohol within the city limits of Mayfield,” she said, referring to the recent closure of the city’s only bar the M.T. Winchester.  

The ordinance would not affect non-quota drink licensed businesses - like restaurants. The city also already has measures in place to restrict where a bar could locate with considerations including parking.

Council member Steven Elder said when the city voted to go wet in 2016, the question was ‘Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in the City of Mayfield?’ He added, “They didn’t say ‘yes, please, allow the government to restrict me in every way possible’” and credited the city for allowing Sunday sales. He said Mayfield would be the only city of its size in Kentucky that would restrict quota drinking licenses through the proposed ordinance.

Cantrell said there’s no way to know what voters wanted specifically, noting that the vote did not pass with an overwhelming majority (1,356 to 968) and adding that many didn’t vote. She said the proposed ordinance is a compromise.

She said the people who were ‘no’ votes in the city’s wet vote wouldn’t be happy until there was no alcohol and concerned that had been expressed included fear of a ‘bar on every corner’ despite there only being four licenses. She also said there was doubt from ‘yes’ voters that a bar could make it as a viable business in Mayfield, adding that it is a ‘simple fact’ that there is no support for a bar.

Elder said if people feel a bar wouldn’t make it in the city, then why restrict someone from trying. Council member Nate Cox said he didn't think a bar would be successful, but added that a government should not impede the free market.

Council members Steven Elder (left) and Barry McDonald (second from right) were outspoken in their thoughts on the proposal.
Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Council member Barry McDonald said he doesn’t oppose alcohol sales in the city, but said the ‘no’ voters are owed respect and that it is the city’s responsibility to manage the local alcohol regulations. “I don't see a real good outcome of a place whose primary way of making living is to induce their patrons into more alcohol usage,” he said. He added that the city has had few problems with any alcohol-selling establishment, including the now closed bar.

Elder said the ordinance wouldn’t just affect bars and could hinder other entrepreneurial opportunities like ‘paint and sips’ (where one can paint paintings while sipping wine) or a local brewery or winery who might want to open a tap room/tasting room. He also said a business like Beards and Beers in Louisville is an example of something that wouldn’t be able to operate in Mayfield if the new ordinance passes.

“We should not want to restrict Mayfield of those types of businesses. We think somehow that we're eliminating a problem, but we’re also at the same time eliminating all kinds of opportunities.” He said the state law passed in early 2017 wasn’t meant for Mayfield, but rather to expand opportunities in smaller communities in the state (for example: Lebanon, a small town on the bourbon trail).

Paducah Beer Werks and Fancy Farm Winery were area businesses specifically mentioned. McDonald, who appeared supportive of the ordinance, suggested if those businesses were to apply for licenses then the council would consider not having a second reading of the proposed ordinance. Officials said there are no applications on record at this time.

Council members opposed to the ordinance suggested leaving the issue alone and coming back to it in a year’s time. The measure would not only prohibit bars, they said, but could limit other potential businesses. Those who expressed support for the ordinance said a bar would not be viable in Mayfield and said the ordinance is a matter of safety.

Mayor Cantrell said a new city council could end up changing or undoing the ordinance.

The ordinance will be voted on in the next council meeting on January 8.