By Joe Potter
Zephyrhills City Council members have agreed to take another look at offering earlier alcohol sales on Sunday, but did so informally and set no specific timetable.
At their meeting last week, council members acknowledged a request from members of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce who want the city to change laws that, they say, put them at a disadvantage to businesses outside of the city limits.
Zephyrhills is the only city in Pasco County that doesn’t allow beer and alcohol to be sold before 1 p.m. on Sunday. Unincorporated Pasco County and other municipalities allow Sunday beer and alcohol sales to begin at 11 a.m. San Antonio allows such sales even earlier —at 8 a.m.
The council readdressed the proposal Aug. 9 after hearing from the chamber and local business owners including Mike Mira, co-owner of Maine-ly New England Restaurant.
Mira said being required to wait until 1 p.m. on Sunday to sell alcoholic beverages places his business at a disadvantage to restaurants and stores a few blocks away that are outside the city limits.
“We should be able to serve a full menu at 11 a.m. when we open on Sundays,” said Mira, a former president of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce’s board.
He wants his and other Zephyrhills businesses selling alcoholic beverages to be “on a level playing field” with businesses in Pasco County, Mira continued.
A similar measure died last year because it lacked support from the city council. Two councilmen were for it, two were against it and then-president Jodi Wilkeson would have cast a tie-breaking vote. Wilkeson was already on record saying she was opposed to the earlier sales. When councilman Ken Compton moved for council to act on the ordinance, his motion died for lack of a second.
Lance Smith, who was then the council’s vice president, initially supported the proposal when it first came up last year. However, Smith reversed his previous support for the measure when it came before the council last September. He cited outcry of opposition from some area churches and he remains opposed to allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages any earlier on Sundays.
Councilman Manny Funes said he would like to see the proposal come back before city council.
The council agreed without a formal vote to bring the proposal back before the council.
In a related matter, city council members tabled for the second time this year the second reading of an ordinance that would limit where people could possess open containers of beer or alcohol on public and nonpublic property within the city limits.
The first reading of the ordinance was held April 12 at which time it passed unanimously. When the ordinance was brought up for a second reading on April 26, the council decided to table it so City Attorney Joe Poblick could make revisions to the ordinance.
When the ordinance came up again Aug. 9, council members again agreed to table it to give Poblick more time to revise it.
Some of the city’s goals regarding the open container ordinance are to give Zephyrhills Police Department officers the authority to issue citations for not complying with it and to focus on restricting open containers primarily in the downtown business district and all city parks.
Funes and Councilman Tim Urban expressed reservations about having the ordinance cover residential areas.
Poblick said he would revise the ordinance to have it refer to specific geographical locations within the city limits, primarily the downtown business district and city parks.
Currently, open containers are banned only at Zephyr Park and at City Hall.
Council plans to readdress the open container law when it meets again at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23.