CHIPLEY - Imagine walking across the train track just a dusk in downtown Chipley to an eatery that offers a fusion of multi-ethnic cuisines - and a nice selection of wine and beer. Mentally smell the aromas of France and Italy, the spices of Cajun and southern cooking, and the light buttery flavors of a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio kiss your pallet.
World Food Champion Nick Rickman is looking to make that thought a reality with his award-winning restaurant Fuzion Craze. However, with the alcohol ordinance the way it is currently, he would be prohibited to do so.
"I've been looking at several buildings in the downtown area and I was close to making an offer on one of them, but that's one of the issues that came to me because there was a church within the proximity of what y'all are talking about," Rickman explained to Chipley City Council at Thursday's workshop. "We're looking to have beer and wine - not hard liquor - to serve with our food."
The alcohol ordinance discussion item was on the agenda because the council wanted input from the community about the issue. By the end of the meeting, the council directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance considering the input. From there, the council will make a recommendation and schedule a special meeting for vote.
Currently, the city regulates the licensed sale of alcohol within 1,000 feet of any church, school or public park and within 300 feet of a dwelling or residence - unless two-thirds of property areas within that area give consent. Last year, the county adopted the state's regulation of no sale within 500 feet of a school and added no sale within 500 feet of a church, which is down by 1,500 feet from its previous regulation.
"I think what we're trying to accomplish here is some clarity in what we're talking about," Councilman Brett Butler said. "I'm a big believer in say-what-you-mean-and-mean-what-you-say and there's some ambiguity there."
Butler was speaking about the way the distance from property to property is measured - either from property line to line or from front door to another point.
Chipley Redevelopment Agency Director Ted Everett wound up the discussion by reminding the council about the economic development efforts his agency has worked hard to promote and secure.
"Why have we been working so hard at the CRA to produce new grants," he started rhetorically, listing local restaurants that the grants would benefit and noting the discussion of development downtown has been a long one.
"To do nothing would be more of the same," Everett said. "If you want to be proactive and look at things differently, this is the way to go."
"People have a choice they have to make individually whether they consume or not, but to tell them they can't because we decree it I don't think is necessarily fair," he concluded. "And the City needs a downtown; it needs businesses downtown."
Also at the meeting, the council terminated the option to purchase real property for parcels formerly reviewed as potential sprayfield sites. The City had identified the five properties of interest based on a survey and soils maps which showed areas fit to serve as a spray field.
The recommendation was for the City to "quit even looking at the five properties - based on what the engineer was saying that we were looking at - and hunting land that was more suitable to take care of the needs of the city," City Administrator Dan Miner said.
There was no discussion from the council nor public.
City Chipley Council will hold its next regular meeting 6 p.m. on April 10 at City Hall.