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Madison County leaders researching how new county restaurants could obtain liquor licenses more quickly

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Madison County leaders are trying to come up with ways to help the survival of restaurants that set up to do business in the county.

There’s one location in particular in Harvest where many restaurants have tried, but failed because of one issue.

A drive down Highway 53 into Harvest will lead to an area of businesses booming.

“People are wanting to spend their tax dollars locally and that’s what we’re seeking,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.  “Because every dollar spent locally creates revenue for the three public school systems.”

Along Highway 53, there’s a new Jack’s now serving customers, a new CVS Pharmacy, which is almost complete, and Publix thriving along with other businesses at Highway 53 and Jeff Road.

But one prime spot remains vacant.

“Very disappointing,” said Becca DeFrank, a Madison County resident.  “We really can’t find anything that would replace it in this area.”

DeFrank was talking about a sushi restaurant that opened in the building in the parking lot of Publix, then went out of business — just like another before it.

Why? Neither could get a liquor license.

“We have to follow the rules of that are created by the State of Alabama,” said Strong.  “And there was a 500 foot rule and we had a home within 500 feet of this development.”

The house is still there, but vacant now.  Strong said it has been purchased to be cleared away for a new retail development.

But this is a problem in other areas of Madison County as well.  Strong says several restaurants have relocated to Huntsville and Madison to survive, since it’s much easier in the city to obtain a liquor license.

“I think it should be a level playing field,” said Noel DeFrank, another Madison County resident.

“Being a non-law making body, we don’t have the ability to do resolutions,” Strong explained.  “We don’t have planning and zoning in Madison County.  The big thing is that we’ve got to adapt, but also changes that need to be made, we need to make those changes.”

He said the county’s legal department is currently researching what needs to be done and at what level of government to make it a level playing field for any establishment that wants to add alcohol to their menu.

Strong added things are in the works and the subject will likely be addressed in an upcoming commission meeting soon.

The next meeting is set for Wednesday, July 2rd, at 10:00am on the 7th floor of the Madison County Courthouse.