Court ruling could halt alcohol sales in Jemison, Thorsby

Published 5:02 pm Monday, March 2, 2015

A decision made Friday by the Alabama Supreme Court striking down a 2009 state law that allows residents to approve the sale of alcoholic beverages could affect Jemison and Thorsby.

The court ruled in Glenn Bynum and Larry Gipson v. City of Oneonta et. al. that Act 2009-546, which allows any municipality having a population of 1,000 or more (excluding Clay, Randolph and Blount counties) to have a municipal option election on alcohol sales, is unconstitutional.

The parties involved have 18 days to ask for a rehearing or the Alabama Legislature could move to amend the law within that time frame.

The decision could also mean that cities and towns including Jemison and Thorsby be required to stop selling alcohol.

In 1984, the Alabama Legislature enacted a law that allowed municipalities having a population of 7,000 or more to hold an election to change the classification of the municipality from “dry” to “wet” or “wet” to “dry” regarding the sale of alcohol within the municipality.

In 2009, legislators lowered the population requirement of 1,000 or more but excluded municipalities within Blount, Clay and Randolph counties.

In January 2010, Jemison residents voted in favor of the legal sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages by a margin of more than 250 votes.

There were 466 residents who voted “yes” and 213 residents voting “no.”

In June of 2010, Thorsby residents also voted in favor of the legal sale and distribution of alcohol beverages with 310 residents voting in favor and 208 residents voting to keep the town dry.

“I have been working with this all morning,” Jemison Mayor Eddie Reed said on Monday afternoon. “We were shocked to hear this. Right now, it is looking like we will just have to wait and see what happens.”

Reed said, there are eight businesses in Jemison who sell alcoholic beverages.

“If it ended up where the city would have to stop selling alcohol, that would greatly impact those businesses who have invested large sums of money to provide alcoholic beverages,” Reed said. “It could cost jobs and future economic development because that is a criteria people use when determining where they will open a business.”

Although Jemison has been a “dry” city before, Reed said the city has benefited from the sale of alcohol with the city bringing in more than $100,000 a year.

“We have lived without it before, but now we have added that money to our budget and it would bring about a small disruption,” Reed said.

Reed said it was his understanding that until he heard otherwise, businesses that sell alcohol in Jemison should continue operating as they normally do unless otherwise notified.

“We are just watching this right now and trying to stay on top of it,” Reed said.

Thorsby Mayor Jean Nelson said she is also waiting to hear the outcome of the decision and was told the town would receive word from the ABC board about how to proceed forward if a decision was made.

“I think everyone is still trying to figure this all out,” Nelson said.

In the meantime, Nelson said four businesses in Thorsby sell alcohol, and she said it would negatively impact the town if alcohol, sells were to be stopped.

“It could be devastating to the businesses in the town,” Nelson said. “I just really don’t want to see the stores suffer.”

Although the amount fluctuates each month, usually the town brings in $900-$1,600 in alcohol sales.

“We are just waiting to hear what is going to happen,” Nelson said.