The Searcy City Council met on Nov. 9 to approve the city’s annual budget report, but the main topics of conversation at the meeting were an emergency clause regarding private club permits and a potential change to business licenses.
The council voted 6-2 to approve an ordinance allowing Venezia’s Italian Grill to file for a private club permit to serve alcohol. The permit will go to the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which has 30 days to review the application and make a final decision.
Council members Mike Chalenburg and Dale Brewer voted against approval for the application. Chalenburg, who works in the Information and Technology Department at Harding University, said he voted in a way he felt represented the students and faculty of Harding.
“I was elected to represent people,” Chalenburg said. “I feel like I’m representing the people of Ward 4 probably more precisely that way.”
The ordinance for private club permits was part of a state law passed in 2017. For the first time, the council adopted the emergency clause found in the ordinance, which allowed the application to be sent straight to the Beverage Control Board. Chalenburg and Morris also voted against the emergency clause. Any previous emergency clauses included with private club permit ordinances passed by the council have failed.
“I don’t think it’s an emergency for people to be able to drink at that particular, or any, restaurant,” Brewer said. “I really don’t see any advantages to having liquor served in our city.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting was talk of a proposal to amend Chapter 17 of the Searcy Code of Ordinances, which includes business license information. Jerry Morris, the Searcy clerk and treasurer, said the council has been asked to look at the proposed amendments before the next council meeting on Dec. 14.
“At the November meeting, the council was presented with possible amendments to the business license section of Chapter 17,” Morris said. “The council could take action at the December meeting to amend Chapter 17 of the Code of Ordinances, but at this time there has been no change.”
The Searcy city budget amendments for this year included the following: about $6,500 appropriated to various Police Department accounts; about $224,950 appropriated for North Main Street improvements; about $26,500 appropriated toward the new library building renovations; and some amounts appropriated for the Parks and Recreation Department, road improvement projects and the Fire Department.