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Wednesday, 19 October 2011 12:49

Jackson nixes consumption of booze at library

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Jackson County commissioners won’t allow alcohol to be served during private functions at the newly renovated historic courthouse and library.

Library supporters have been marketing the venue as an ideal spot for receptions, weddings and other functions as a way to raise extra money for the library. Not being able to serve alcohol could make the facility less attractive to private groups.

But county commissioners feared a slippery slope.

“If we open the door and allow one particular facility, I believe you’ll get additional requests,” County Manager Chuck Wooten told commissioners this week.

The county is in the process of crafting a lease for the library building, which is county-owned but run by the Fontana Regional Library system. The alcohol issue had to be settled for the lease to move forward.

In a moment of absolute and somewhat rare unanimity, commissioners voted against allowing alcohol at the library as a county-owned building. Commissioner Mark Jones, who lives in Cashiers, said he’d recently received two requests that alcoholic beverages be allowed at Albert Carlton Library during events there, too — offered as evidence that a flood of requests could follow if the alcoholic-beverage door was cracked open.

County Attorney Jay Coward said the libraries, as well as other entities using county buildings, had long operated under handshake agreements.

“We are trying to formalize these leases … so everybody understands what the ground rules are,” Wooten said.

Chairman Jack Debnam said he objected to allowing alcoholic beverages to be served at the new library for two reasons.

“The library is competing against the private sector if they are leasing the facility and serving alcohol. I don’t think we need to get in that part of it,” he said. “And, second, where do we stop? What if they wanted to serve alcohol at the Golden Age Center? Suppose they want to serve alcohol over here at the baseball fields one day? Where do we stop?”

Commissioner Joe Cowan said that concerned him, too.

“This brings in the whole aspect of public schools,” Cowan said, adding that he also felt uncomfortable about the liability issue.

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