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WV Restauranteur Finds Frustration in Beer Ordinance Language

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

Lawton Gafford, owner of the Trusty Diner in Water Valley, asked the board of aldermen Tuesday night to clarify the Beer Ordinance that remains intact. Photo via Google Maps.

The discussion regarding the intact Beer Ordinance in Water Valley faced further backlash from Trusty Diner owner Lawton Gafford Tuesday night.

Gafford urged the Aldermen to clarify the ordinance due to its vague language. His frustration was regarding the verbiage that if a restaurant served beer to a customer who does not order a meal he or she could face 90 days in jail or face a $1,000 fine.

The ordinance currently reads: “No person or licensee under this ordinance shall sell give or dispense or permit to be sold given or dispensed beer or light wine to a patron without serving to such patron a meal therewith or anticipation thereof.”

State law allows for the sale of liquor and wine in Yalobusha County, and those beverages could be ordered without having to order food.

Both city attorney Daniel Martin and mayor Donald Gray told Gafford that as long as he, and any other restaurant owner, served customers beer beverages with the intent that the customer would order a meal, the owners “should be fine.”

However, Gafford still seemed uneasy about the language and advocated that the Aldermen comb through the ordinance to clarify its language.

For instance, Gafford asked what constituted as a meal. He asked the Aldermen and the mayor if he could sell a customer a roll after he or she consumed a beer; would that constitute as a meal?

Gray said it would as long as the customer did not continue to drink until the point of intoxication.

Alderman Cinnamon Foster argued Gray and Gafford’s reasoning of what was considered a meal. According to the state legislature, to even open a restaurant, it must possess five different entrees that are prepared in the building. That would mean a roll would not constitute a meal, Foster said. 

Alderman Kagan Coughlin said the challenge for this situation is that if a law is properly crafted it should be clear in the margins so that city attorney’s clarifications should be as small as possible.

“This law is entirely interpretational,” Coughlin said.

Gafford said he read the ordinance very carefully because he wants to follow the letter of the law.

“This law either needs more or less letters,” he said.

Coughlin said that if Gafford still has a problem with the language of the ordinance that he should lean on the shoulders of those who still support it and its standing.

The law still stands after the required vote to overturn the mayor’s veto was not reached during a special meeting Thursday, Jan. 31.

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