The Lafayette City Council voted to cancel a town hall meeting regarding beer by the beverage.

The Lafayette City Council voted to cancel a town hall meeting regarding beer by the beverage.

The Lafayette City Council voted on Aug. 6 to cancel a scheduled town hall meeting concerning serving beer by the beverage inside the Lafayette city limits.

Though a vote was not planned, the town hall meeting had been set for Aug. 28 to allow citizens to speak directly to the council concerning their opinion on serving beer by the beverage.

Councilman Roger Russell requested the council vote to cancel the town hall.

"I believe that the chances of the on-site consumption has a slim chance of passing," Russell said. "I believe that the emotions will run high at that meeting. I believe there will be a large crowd, and I believe it will be neighbors against neighbors and friends against friends. I think we'll all lose over it, because I don't think it has any chance of passing."

Mayor Richard Driver defended the planned town hall.

"I think the question is, do we want to listen to what the public says, or do we want to do what we want to do," Driver said. "That's just basically what it is."

Driver referred to the issue as "controversial," saying it always had been and likely would continue to be.

"This is an important decision that is going to be made here, and I really think that we should at least look into it and see … if Lafayette is ready for this or not," Driver said.

Driver told the council he would like to continue with the public hearing to get the citizens' ideas on the matter.

Councilman Steve Turner said that he had spoken with many citizens and that they "don't want it."

"I go along with what they say," Turner said. "They're the ones that put me in here, and they're the ones I'm going to listen to … and they don't want it."

Council member Pam Cothron Scruggs added, "We were elected to these chairs to look toward the best for the city of Lafayette, to work for that. No one has convinced me that beer consumption on premise is the best for Lafayette … not yet. We've had, in the past, a lot of good industry come to Lafayette. They didn't come here because we offered beer consumption. They didn't pack up and leave because we didn't. There's a lot of factors that have to meet their criteria that have nothing to do with beer consumption. That's what I was told … the reason why we were even looking at it is that it would bring in industry. It'll bring in big business, big restaurants."

Scruggs indicated that she had evaluated the criteria the industries and restaurants require and that Lafayette does not meet those criteria.

"We don't have the transportation for shipping," Scruggs said. "We don't have the population for a workforce or what they're looking for as far as restaurants."

Scruggs said she could not vote to approve serving beer by the beverage and made a motion to cancel the town hall meeting.

Driver said that he believed allowing beer by the beverage would open the door for restaurants.

"When we do this, we're not going to have restaurants come rushing into Lafayette," Driver said. "All its going to do is open the door."

Driver said that if those restaurants and industry didn't come to Lafayette, they would build in Westmoreland, Hartsville, and other local towns.

"They're going to go around us," Driver said. "What we want to do is see if we want to close that door and lock it … or do we want to at least leave that door ajar?"

Scruggs said that she agreed with the mayor "on principle" but that she, "didn't see, even if we open the door, who's coming? There's no one to come."

The motion to cancel the meeting on Aug. 28 was seconded and passed by a 4-2 vote. Russell, Turner, Scruggs and Jason Phelps voted to cancel the meeting, while Jerry Wilmore and Seth Blankenship voted to proceed with it.

Some local restaurant owners were disappointed with the council's decision.

Melanie Chaffin of Big Ed's BBQ said she felt being able to serve beer by the beverage was a good idea.

"I think it would make a big difference in this town," Chaffin said.

Chaffin said that she felt it would help improve her business.

Jose Pere, with Agave's Mexican Restaurant, said he felt that not allowing people to come speak was unfair.

"It's really a waste," Pere said. "People are really looking to have a beer. Eating, drinking, having a beer … they want to enjoy."

Pere feels that people will go to other towns that allow beer service in restaurants. He feels that if Lafayette were to allow beer by the beverage, he feels that his business would benefit.

"We've had customers come here and sit down and want to drink a beer, and when we don't sell the beer, they leave," Pere said. "They walk out, because they want to drink. So, I think it would do better. I think it would do better for the city, because money would stay here too."

Roberto Perez, the manager of La Tia Mexican Restaurant, also believes it would help the city.

"Everyone around has beer now," Perez said. "We're getting behind, I think. A lot of people want it to happen."

• In addition to canceling the town hall meeting, the council also voted on Monday to adopt an ordinance that removes the word "residence" from a section of the municipal code of the city of Lafayette. This section prevents the sale of beer "when such business would cause congestion of traffic or would interfere with schools, churches or other places of public gatherings, or would otherwise interfere with the public health, safety, and morals."

• The council also authorized the purchase of a roll off truck for the sanitation department, a sewer vacuum tank for the sewer department, a bush hog, a truck for the gas department - as well as for the water department - and two all-wheel drive utility vehicles for the police department.

• The council also voted to hire Jeff Morgan as heavy equipment operator for the water department.

• Lafayette Police Department Sgt. Jeff Hix was demoted by his own request. Hix was voluntarily demoted from sergeant to patrolman. The council then voted to promote Derrick Gann from patrolman to sergeant.

• The council also voted to accept the resignation of part time dispatcher Michael Leonard. In addition, the council voted to advertise and accept applications for two part-time dispatchers.

• The council also accepted a bid on the installation of a liner in the Lafayette city pool and a bid by TDS for a five-year landfill services contract.

• The mayor also informed the council that a company would soon be submitting designs and prices for a splash pad to be built as an addition to the local pool.

• In addition, Driver announced that the city is providing a new service which calls citizens who are delinquent in their bills to the city to remind them to pay before their services are cut off.

• The council also voted to take applications for sewer plant trainee.