The topic of allowing alcohol sales at the Providence Municipal Golf and Recreation Center for the purpose of attracting a restaurant to the facility was discussed again at a recent meeting of the Providence City Council, with council members at odds over a potential solution.
The issue first came up at an August council meeting when Providence resident Randy LaNeve, owner of Big R's BBQ trailer, told the council that he was interested in leasing the largely unused community room at the golf course to open a barbeque restaurant. The council had previously discussed looking to rent that room out to a vendor for that exact purpose.
LaNeve had one contingency to his offer to lease the space -- the ability to sell and serve alcohol had to be a part of the deal.
When the city passed its original alcohol ordinance in December, it adopted a sample ordinance prepared by the Kentucky League of Cities. That ordinance included a ban on alcohol sales at all city owned property, which would include the golf course, the city park and the Providence Community Center.
In order to allow LaNeve to open a restaurant and serve alcohol, the city would have to amend the ordinance, which would require at least two separate votes by the council.
"(The room) is setting there not being used," said councilman Mark Turner. "We have someone waiting to lease it and put in a business. He's just waiting on us to make a decision."
Councilman Chip Palmer voiced his concern at the meeting.
"I don't like to see the city promoting alcohol sales on city property," said Palmer.
Palmer said he was concerned with the liability the city would face if someone were to serve alcohol on property that it owned.
"We talked to Rudd Insurance and they assured us that the person who leased the building for the restaurant would be liable," said Mayor Doug Hammers.
Palmer countered that he felt the city would still be liable, regardless of what the insurance company that covers the city's liability insurance says.
"The people who voted for alcohol sales are the same people who voted each one of us into office," Turner told his fellow council members. He then went on to ask Hammers where he stood on the issue of alcohol sales on city property.
"This is a council decision," Hammers said. "My opinion doesn't matter right now. My opinion on a restaurant is that it would be another business in town. I've known Randy my whole like. He's a good guy."
Hammers, as mayor, would only be allowed to cast a vote if the council arrived at a tie. For the time being he's not showing his favoritism to either side of the debate.
A similar situation recently arose in the city of Madisonville, where Mayor Kevin Cotton refused to cast the tie-breaking vote on whether or not to allow Sunday package sales in that community, also stating that it was a "council decision." That measure ultimately died when the council was deadlocked with a 3-3 vote.
Councilman Keith Farrell told the council on Tuesday that he had reached out to other cities in the area to find out more about how they've handled the issue. He stated that the golf course owned by the city of Madisonville does not sell alcohol, but alcohol sales are allowed at other city events.
"I did have the chance to speak to (the golf course in) Henderson," he said. "They have a restaurant that is leased from the city by a private business. They sell wine and beer. Customers are allowed to take it onto the golf course if its in a cooler."
Councilwoman Shannon Layton was the only council member present that did not speak during the discussion. Council members Myra Bell and Scott Frederick were both absent.
Providence resident Ken Stuart voiced his concern over the idea that the city would consider changing its ordinance to allow alcohol at golf course.
"How many of you were on the council before this year?" he asked. "It was unanimous that you wouldn't allow (alcohol sales on city property). Ya'll are being hypocrites."
Stuart insisted several times that this would mean that alcohol sales would be allowed "at the park", to which several council members assured him that PMGRC and the park are different facilities.
"Alcohol sales at the park is not a question," said Turner.
The council made no decision on the topic at the meeting.