City of Madison updates beverage laws and increases liquor tax

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT)-- Leaders changed parts of the City of Madison's beverage ordinance Monday night.

By council vote, the city's 10% liquor privilege tax went up to 12%. It hadn't been raised in 20 years, we're told.

Council member Tommy Overcash said it now falls more in line to other cities in the area. "It makes us similar to Decatur, Athens, and Huntsville," he explained.

This takes effect April 1 and would affect 38 existing businesses with liquor licenses, said Cameron Grounds with the city's Revenue Department.

The council also moved to change some of the city's ordinance that were described as "outdated."

New provisions include:

  • Zoning updates to keep what's on the books in line with the planning department
  • Amending the food sales provision that previously required alcohol vendors to also sell 50% food, so that they must now have food on hand but no percentage of sales is required
  • Removing the clause requiring alcohol vendors to remain 500 feet away from schools and churches

"It gives some more clarity," said Overcash, "and removes some archaic rules that no longer apply." He said that could mean there is more freedom for businesses to move in and sell alcohol in Madison.

"A lot of times, we end up having to go into Huntsville or somewhere else," he explained, "and if we have more options in Madison, people will tend to stay in Madison and spend their money here."

He added that it also provides more flexibility to establish an entertainment district in Madison.

"The tax is a small amount," he said. "It could help with extra revenue to give us the flexibility to bring in new businesses."

Council member DJ Klein called the changes a "common-sense" approach, with an opportunity to expand the city's tax base.

Steve Smith was the only council member to vote against the changes.

"We're a family friendly community," he explained. "I want to make sure we stay that way." He said he's for updating policies, but he had some reservations. "I don't think we're going to have an influx of bars all of a sudden, but I do think it's going to bring about issues we haven't completely thought out yet."

One of those issues may be what Police Chief Larry Muncey brought before the council when asked for his opinion.

"With more bars come more alcohol related offenses," he explained. "With more alcohol related offenses, is more calls for the Madison Police Department, which is going to increase the volume-- the amount of officers that we need, and I'm going to come back in front of you begging for more people to enforce these laws."

The increased liquor privilege tax is expected to bring on $72,000 more a year for the city's General Fund.