Wine Sales in Albany?

A large selection of wine and hard liquor greets shoppers at a convenience store on Interstate 12, less than two miles from the Town of Albany corporate limits. The town already allows the sale of beer, but the Town Council may allow voters to expand the ordinance to allow for wine sales -- but not hard liquor.

ALBANY – A proposition to loosen the town’s stringent laws on alcohol sales may go before voters later this year.

The town council at its Feb. 12 meeting opened discussion on another try at an ordinance that would allow the sale of wine in retail outlets in the corporate limits.

The discussion came when council members brought up an ongoing request from Carter’s Supermarket, which wants to sell wine in its supermarket inside the town limits.

The current ordinance allows the sale of beer, but not wine or hard liquor.

The ordinance remains on the books despite a large inventory of beer, wine and hard liquor at two convenience stores off Interstate 12, less than two miles outside town limits.

Council members said the ban is unfair to Carter’s, the only supermarket in the town of just over 1,200.

“They bring a lot of money to this town,” council member Kim Stewart said.

She also said a relaxed ordinance could help the town attract more restaurants in much the same way as it has for Denham Springs and Walker.

Members suggested an ordinance to clear the way for the supermarket to sell wine as part of the expansion of its Albany location, but it would take more than a vote of the council, Mayor Gene Glasscock said.

“I don’t have a problem with a change in the ordinance, but it’s going to have to go before the town voters,” he said. “We cannot decide this arbitrarily.”

An election date poses another obstacle. Outside of a congressional race in the fall, no high-profile elections are on the ballot this year.

The town does not want to put the issue on a one-item ballot because it would have to foot the entire cost of the election with the Secretary of State’s Office.

District 1 Fire Chief Joe Foster told the council he encountered the same problem during a millage renewal, which left the district holding the bag on the $11,000 cost of the election.

An attempt to loosen the ordinance on liquor sales would follow suit with legislation Walker voters approved in October 2010, despite fervent objection from church groups.

Glasscock, a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church, expects the same resistance from his predominately Protestant town population.

He admitted his approval to let voters decide on wine sales could put him in an awkward spot with his fellow congregants.

“But it can’t be what just one group wants,” he said after the meeting. “This has to be a decision of the town, as a whole.”

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