The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 16, 2013

Councilman to church: Barricade parking lot

— An Athens city councilman said Monday if the First Baptist Church wants to prevent people who have been drinking at the Event Center from parking in its lot then they need to barricade it.

Councilman Jimmy Gill made the comment during a public hearing on a request by the Rotary Club for an alcohol license for a Feb. 9 special event at the Limestone County Event Center in Athens.

After the request was introduced, Council President Harold Wales told fellow councilmen he had received a letter of strong opposition from First Baptist Church minister Joe Teal. In the letter, Teal told the council he and other church members did not want people attending the Rotary event to park in the church’s youth center parking lot across the street because the event would include alcoholic beverages. Some church members believe that allowing people who have imbibed at the Event Center to park in the lot is unsafe and sets a poor example for youths.

Wales, who is a member of the church, told council members he did not necessarily share the opinion but wanted to convey the church’s sentiment. He also said he is a strong supporter of the Rotary.

Gill responded by saying the parking issue was the church’s.

“This is not a city issue,” Gill said. “The parking lot belongs to them so they need to put up a barricade.”

With that, council members voted unanimously to approve the Rotary’s request for a special event alcohol license.

The law

Members of First Baptist Church have come before the council before to protest use of their parking lot by those consuming alcohol at Event Center events.

In January 2011, they protested a request by the National Wild Turkey Federation (advocates of the bird not the booze) for a one-night special-events alcohol license for the Event Center. They argued that the city’s ordinance requires 500 feet between a church, school or child-development center and an establishment selling alcohol. However city officials said the Event Center is zoned B-4 business district, which allows an exception. Alcoholic beverages are allowed if there are at least 50 feet between the front doors of the buildings in question.

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