Fat Patties License Not Renewed, Liquor Law Changes Stalled
The Carbondale city council, acting as the liquor control commission, deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to renew council member Lance Jack’s liquor license for his Fat Patties restaurant. Council members and liquor commissioners Jane Adams, Corene McDaniel, and Chris Wissmann voted to approve the license, while Lee Fronabarger, Don Monty, and Joel Fritzler voted against the license.
I expected Joel Fritzler to vote against the license, but I was stunned when both Lee Fronabarger and Don Monty opposed it. Monty offered the possibility that the council could consider a set of changes to city code that might secure his vote. Lee Fronabarger offered no explanation for his vote.
I’m really tired of this issue. Joel Fritzler’s objections are without merit, as I’ve written here and here. A reader commenting as Concerned Observer argued back in May that our entire liquor ordinance is at odds with state law. I couldn’t figure out exactly what Don Monty was objecting to. When he finished his comments I expected him to vote for the license.
Lee Fronabarger’s vote shocked me more than anyone’s. Fronabarger’s appointment was controversial and without democratic legitimacy. I expected that he would follow the will of the voters, who chose to return Lance Jack to the council even knowing that he held a liquor license for Fat Patties. I couldn’t guess what motivated him to vote against the Fat Patties license, but I shouldn’t have to guess. Fronabarger should have told the public during council comments why he decided to vote against the license.
I think Jack will eventually get his license. I don’t think the council has any legitimate reason to deny it and I expect justice to prevail over the petty politics around this issue. I do think this vote has the potential to poison the personal relationships among the council members for the next two or even four years. It was a foolish vote and the council’s best option is to reverse themselves at the next meeting.
After adjourning as the liquor control commission, the council reconvened as the city council, this time with Lance Jack in attendance. The only big piece of business on the agenda was item 5.2 (pdf), which would have radically revised Carbondale’s liquor laws. The ordinance would have allowed liquor sales at grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, and it would have made all of Carbondale “wet” (currently the area south of Pleasant Hill Rd. is “dry”).
Lee Fronabarger, who opposed the Fat Patties liquor license, made the motion to approve this ordinance. The motion died for lack of a second. Aside from Fritzler and Fronabarger, no council member was willing to even discuss the ordinance.
During council comments, the council members explained their vote. It’s basically a process issue. The Liquor Advisory Board hadn’t seen the ordinance, and there were several changes being considered. It wasn’t clear that all the consequences of the changes had been considered, so the council refused to act. The issue will be back in a future meeting – maybe as soon as July.
This has to be seen as a rebuke to Fritzler, who supported the ordinance. People in Carbondale are sticklers for process. Early in former mayor Brad Cole’s first term, the council refused to approve his road resurfacing ordinance because the planning commission hadn’t considered it. The ordinance went back to the planning commission, and the council subsequently approved it.
The council taught Fritzler the same lesson Cole learned – in Carbondale it’s often quicker to take things slowly. People who support the substance of your proposal will vote against it if there is a board or commission that should have considered it but wasn’t granted the opportunity.
Fortunately, a majority of council members support at least some of these changes. Sooner or later, beer and wine will be available in grocery stores. It might be available in gas stations, drug stores, and south of Pleasant Hill Road. The exact specifics aren’t clear, but our liquor laws will change.
I might have more to say on this in the future.
Comments are welcome.