Some lawmakers look to change beer law - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Some lawmakers look to change beer law

Thousands of Mid-Southerners are moving to downtown Memphis, but a city ordinance is causing some trouble for the businesses popping up near by. Business owners and city leaders say for downtown growth to continue, the city's beer ordinance needs to be watered down.

Restaurant owner Kysha Benjamin just got her beer license last week, after applying in July and being open since August.

"A process that should take no more than 30 days ended up taking almost 90," Benjamin said.

It took Benjamin nearly 90 days, five hearings and a call to her attorney to get the license, fighting a city ordinance prohibiting beer sales within 500 feet of a school or church.

Other new businesses downtown are still struggling to get beer permits and some city planners say that's bad for development.

"In downtown Memphis we're trying to create a very urban mixed use experience and we don't think that kind of restriction should be in place," said Jeff Sammons of the City Center Commission.

It's not just downtown businesses, even the new Whitehaven Wal-Mart can't sell beer.

Councilman Jack Sammons is leading the charge to reduce the distance requirement to 100 feet, something councilman Joe Brown is against.

"I'm opposed because I don't think that beer sales should take place by churches and schools etc...definitely beer sales should not be within the confines of a residential community," Brown said.

But supporters of the amendment say if the ordinance isn't changed, there won't be any residential community in Downtown Memphis.

"It is not going to build a successful neighborhood if it's left in place," said Sharon Leichman, president of the South Main Association.

Councilman Joe Brown says he wants the 100-foot amendment sent back to committee for more discussion, otherwise he'll vote against it. This issue comes back before city council for its third and final reading next Tuesday.

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