Easley gives preliminary approval for alcohol sales at city events

EASLEY — After much discussion during Monday night’s city council meeting in Easley, an ordinance to allow limited sales of alcohol at events held in Old Market Square passed its first reading.
Council approved the ordinance with a 5-2 vote, with council members Thomas Wright and Libby Dodson voting against the measure.
The ordinance will have a second reading at the March city council meeting.
Alcohol sales will be restricted to one of two designated areas in the square, to be determined in each case by the city administrator or the chief of police.
Cynthia Smoak of the Pickens County Cancer Association said that the sale of alcohol was needed for the group’s upcoming barbecue fundraiser, set for April 14 in Old Market Square.
Smoak said that the fundraiser could bring in as much a $35,000 if alcohol sales are allowed, but had little chance of attracting participants from across the state if there were no alcohol allowed. Smoak gave some examples of people the Pickens County Cancer Association has helped with limited funding, and asked council members to imagine how many more people could be helped with a successful fundraiser.
“I urge you to vote yes on this,” Smoak said.
Lake High, president of the South Carolina Barbecue Association, told council of his experience with a barbecue festival in Bamberg. High said that after several successful years, the Bamberg city council voted to not to sell alcohol at the event.
“And that killed it,” High said.
High said that with no alcohol sales, the cookers would not come to the festival.
High said that a similar festival — with alcohol sales — in Greenville made $17,000 its first year.
“You make money and have a good time,” High said. “Everybody loves a barbecue. Easley will benefit and people will go home happy.”
Kimberly Albertson, who is fighting cancer herself, spoke in opposition to alcohol sales.
“I don’t want my name being used for the benefit of alcohol,” Albertson said.
Albertson said that she has been battling cancer for 13 years. Last year she found a treatment that was successful, and she gave all the credit to God for her recovery.
“I don’t believe that alcohol will benefit Easley,” Albertson said. “Everyone has known someone who is battling drug abuse or alcohol abuse.”
Albertson compared selling alcohol to raise money to fight cancer to selling cigarettes for the same purposes.
“Alcohol isn’t going to solve anything,” Albertson said. “It is a slap in the face for people suffering from cancer to have their name attached to this.”
Brian Hale noted that the city had to have passed an ordinance to not sell alcohol at city events.
“Evidently there was a problem or there wouldn’t have been an ordinance,” Hale said.
Hale said he understood the need for funding for the fight against cancer, since both of his parents had cancer and his brother has had to fight prostate cancer, but he would still want to come up with an alternative.
Hale noted that for a festival in Tryon, N.C., the city ordinance allowing alcohol sales reverts back after the festival, and he wondered if Easley could not do the same for this festival.
Mayor Larry Bagwell said that he felt it would be unfair to offer the opportunity for alcohol to select groups and not to others.
Former Easley High School principal Bill Houston addressed council about the proposed alcohol sales.
“I’m not here to condemn anyone, not here to cast a stone at anyone,” Houston said. “Lord knows I have faults of my own.”
Houston said he was appalled that an organization is asking that alcohol sales be used to raise money to fight cancer when research has shown that alcohol is a contributing cause of cancer.
Houston said that while many say morality cannot be legislated, he disagrees, citing the failure of national laws that banned prayer in schools and allowed abortions to be performed legally.
Houston told council that their duty was to do what is right, not what is popular.
“As a leader that you choose to be, a lot of times you will be called upon to make decisions that are not popular,” Houston said.
Houston said that he feels a personal responsibility to use his influence in a positive manner.
“What I do in my life influences others,” Houston said.
Houston said that through use of alcohol, people could destroy their life or their marriage. He said there’s a possibility that someone could leave Old Market Square and hit a child with their car.
“How is this ordinance going to make Easley a better place to live?” Houston asked.
Bagwell said he did not have any problem sleeping with any decision he has made as mayor.
“I would have a hard time sleeping if I influenced anybody to do the wrong thing,” Bagwell said
Councilman Dave Watson expressed concern that one of the two proposed areas in which alcohol sales would be allowed was too close to Robinson Funeral Home, which could be a problem for families who are saying farewell to a loved one.
Council also passed:
— A resolution clearing up property line issues for Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
— An ordinance re-zoning property next to Palmetto Medical Research so that the business can use the property to expand.
— A measure awarding a contract to Phillips Brothers Construction for construction of batting cages at the J.B. “Red” Owens Recreation Complex. When not being used by teams in the Big League World Series, the cages would be available to the public. The funds for the cages will be provided by the city’s hospitality tax.
— A contract with King Asphalt to change S.C. Highway 135 from four lanes to three lanes with one lane for bicycles from Main Street to Alfred Street.