Suwannee Democrat


February 13, 2014

Request to extend hours of alcohol consumption denied in Jasper

Jasper — Joanne Townsend, owner and operator of Papa’s Market in Jasper, was on the agenda at the Feb. 4 meeting of the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners to continue discussion of extending hours of operation for her establishment.

Papa’s Market is located at 3862 NW 110 Dr., in Jasper and Townsend has a 2COP (consumption on premises) license to sell beer and wine. Townsend said she gets a lot of late night customers and since she must close by midnight, according to county ordinances, she said she has to start cleaning up around 11:30 p.m. and is losing business. She said she does a lot of catering for local residents and businesses and she doesn’t have any trouble at her establishment requiring law enforcement intervention.

“I’m sure the sheriff can vouch that the only time the police is there is when they want to eat,” she said. “I don’t have any carry-outs, I don’t have a carry-out window, you have to be 25 or over to come in my place, you cannot hang in my parking lot, and I’m just asking the board if there’s any way possible if we can extend it (hours).”

The hours of operation for alcoholic beverage establishments was set by an ordinance on July 21, 1998, when it was changed from a 2 a.m. closing time to 12 midnight. Then on May 3, 2011, bottle club hours were also set to close by midnight with an additional ordinance, making all alcohol establishment closing times uniform at 12 midnight.

Townsend explained that her cost of operation far exceeds the income of the business. The business, she said, is only open on Friday and Saturday. She pleaded with the board to give her a chance, since she has abided by all the rules and regulations and has kept up her licenses.

Attorney John McCormick advised that according to the county ordinance, the business owner and employees can stay as long as they want to do clean up after midnight. They just can’t serve alcohol.

Commissioner Beth Burnam told Townsend that she had spoken to the sheriff’s office about the ordinances and also that the sheriff’s office was very complimentary of the way Townsend runs her business. The problem, Burnam said, is that if the board allows the extension of hours for one business, then they’d have to do it for everyone.

“I’m afraid there are other businesses that wouldn’t handle it as responsibly as you would,” Burnam told Townsend.

McCormick advised the board that it would take an ordinance change to extend the hours and that they couldn’t just change it for one person.

Commissioner Randy Ogburn assured Townsend the board wasn’t against her, but he reminded her of all the public hearings, the voices of the public and the sheriff’s office pleadings to have the hours set at midnight because of all the complaints and disturbances going on in the early morning hours.

The commissioners were in agreement that the amount of disturbance calls has decreased immensely since the bottle club ordinance was passed. The general consensus of the board was that they were not in favor of making any changes to the current ordinance.

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