COFFEEVILLE – The first restaurant in the county was granted a privilege license to serve beer for on-premises consumption during a recessed supervisors’ meeting last Friday at the Coffeeville Courthouse.
The privilege license was granted under the county’s new beer ordinance, which was passed in late December following a December 11 referendum in which county voters approved the sale of beer. The new ordinance allows cold beer to be offered only in a restaurant setting where at least 50 percent of the business’ revenue is generated from food.
The application of Guzman Interprize, LLC, doing business as Tito’s Tacos, was approved following a review of their application during the meeting. The Mexican restaurant is located on County Road 170 near Oakland.
“They are listing themselves as a restaurant,” Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn said.
“They have nine tables and 34 chairs,” McMinn told supervisors after reading the application during the meeting. The business operators also listed their food sales as 80 to 90 percent of their income at their business on their application.
“I guess they would be alright then, wouldn’t it George?” District Five Supervisor Frank “Bubba” Tillman asked.
“I guess they would,” District Four Supervisor George Suggs answered. The restaurant is located in Suggs’ beat.
Five other privilege license applicants were turned down during the meeting, at least temporarily, because the business owners had not previously obtained a state permit for beer sales.
The other five applicants discussed in the meeting included:
Wayne Kimball who applied for a privilege license to sell beer in a convenience store located at the Water Valley Boat Landing area in the old Enid Corner building.
His convenience store/bait shop will operate as KBLC according to his application. His application was to sell hot beer for off-premises consumption.
McMinn said he obtained his state permit, which would be effective on March 1.
“Can we grant him something without a state license, or can we do it pending that he gets it?” M.H. “Butch” Surrette asked.
“No,” Board Attorney John Crow answered. “He has got to get the state first and then come to us,” Crow said.
The next application discussed was from Cecil Harrison who told supervisors that he was in the process of opening a restaurant on March 1.
His business will be located on Hwy. 330 east at the old Gum’s Crossing store.
“Cecil was under the impression that I think a lot of folks were that they needed to come to the county and apply here first,” McMinn said, instead of getting the state permit first.
“I totally misunderstood,” Harrison told supervisors, but with an opening date just over a month away he explained that he had plenty of time to get the applications and permits.
Harrison’s application listed his principle business as restaurant, bar and grill. He told supervisors that would be open on Sundays, but that he understood he could not offer beer on that day.
Harrison also serves as the county’s Civil Defense director, prompting questioning about his prospective new business venture.
“Cecil, I have got a couple of questions. I am asking them, and I am asking them for the general public,” Supervisor Tommy Vaughn said.
“The fact you are an employee of the county, and you are asking to open this business up in your name. As the county handbooks says, ‘any job outside of your county job has to be approved by the board of supervisors,’” Vaughn continued.
“I am not saying they will not approve it or anything like that, the question I got is that your job is unique. You are not an eight to four man. You are a 24-hour-a day-job like a lot of us on the road crew.
“We don’t want to see this interfere, in any shape or fashion with your job,” Vaughn concluded.
Harrison answered by explaining that he had maintained a part-time job for the last five years and now, as in the past, his part-time job would not interfere with his county duties.
“You understand about all these restrictions on on-premises consumption?” Crow asked.
“Fifty-percent food,” Crow said. “That doesn’t mean sandwiches and salads, that means meals.”
“I understand that; you are welcome to come out and sit down and eat,” Harrison answered.
Crow elaborated, explaining that he was concerned there may be a misunderstanding after looking at several of the privilege license applications. He stressed that he did not want to see someone go through the expense of getting an on-premises permit from the state, but not comply with the county requirements.
The discussion then shifted back to Harrison, who asked, “If I get the permit, will everything be okay?”
“As long as it don’t interfere with your job,” Tillman answered.
The next privilege license applicant discussed was the Yalobusha Country Club.
“They are listed as a private club with a dining room, golf and a pool,” McMinn told the board.
“They list their percentage as 65 percent, food-to-alcohol percentage,” McMinn said.
Operator Glenda Gordon told supervisors that she should have her state permit within several days. Her application was put on hold until she receives the state permit.
The final two applicants both lacked the state permit and were also declined.
These two applications were from Hayes Recreation and from Roy Lee Campbell and James Moore.
“I have these two pending also,” McMinn said.
Revisiting The Ordinance
After examining the applications case by case, supervisors also revisited the thought process for the hot-cold issue of the county’s beer ordinance.
This discussion came after McMinn said the owners of 330 Superstore, a convenience store located just outside Coffeeville, wanted to change their permit to serve cold beer for on-premises consumption.
McMinn explained that the store had four eating booths and sells biscuits, chicken and other food. The store was the first business in the county to obtain a permit to sell beer, which was for off-premises consumption
“They are wanting to sell cold beer,” McMinn said, which would be for on-premises consumption.
“He asked that I ask you again, if you want to go out there and look at his establishment, and see if you consider it a restaurant.
“The whole purpose of what we did, asking to sell hot beer in the county had a purpose,” Vaughn explained.
“To try to keep down beer joints,” Vaughn said.
“Drinking and driving,” Surrette added.
If you are going to put a grill up just for the purpose of selling cold beer, that is not a restaurant,” Vaughn said.
“You are defeating the purpose of the regulations that we set if you don’t stick to them,” Vaughn said.
“My feelings about hot and cold has always been this. If you got a restaurant and go in and sit down and eat a meal and drink, you are not driving,” Surrette said.
“If you got a convenience store and you go by and get one and put it between your legs and take off down the road, you are drinking and driving,” Surrette.
Surrette said that his feelings about the hot and cold issue has been to discourage drinking and driving. “Some people don’t understand that,” Surrette continued.
“I know that because I have read where they don’t understand it. They didn’t sign their name so I don’t know who to go talk to,” Surrette said.
“I would like for them to understand why I am for that (hot beer),” Surrette added.
“Why, that was my position in the beginning and it is still my position today,” Surrette said.
“I know we are all taking a beating for this thing,” Vaughn said.
“They mention me quite often, but I don’t know who to go talk to because they don’t sign up,” Surrette continued. “They are 76, or 32 or 49, I don’t know which one to go see,” Surrette concluded.
Surrette later clarified his comments, pointing to the Herald’s website, yalnews.com, in which readers can submit comments about stories in each edition. Several of the commentators have used a numerical identification.
“We were elected for a reason. To look after Yalobusha County the best we know how to do. That is what I am going to do. And if that is not good enough – so be it, get someone else in here,” Vaughn said.
“Come heck or high water,” Surrette said.
(Editor’s Note: The views and opinions submitted in the comment section of the Herald’s website may not be shared by the newspaper or staff members.)