Looser rules for alcohol near Sebastian churches, schools moves forward

SEBASTIAN — New rules for restaurants wishing to serve alcohol to diners are moving forward in Sebastian.

The latest version of the rules is due to go before the Sebastian City Council on Jan. 12 for the second public hearing and could be approved at that time.

The new rules would not limit establishments from serving any alcohol within 450 feet of a church or school, provided that the establishments’ receipts show at least 51 percent of their sales being food.

The issue came up after Las Palmas Cuban Restaurant opened up within 450 feet of the Sebastian Baptist Church on US 1 in the Village Shoppes.

Restaurant manager Edna Gonzalez told the council that the proposed changes would allow her to offer beer or wine to enjoy with their meals and would be a “tremendous plus” for her and others’ future businesses.

Beth Mitchell, executive director of the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce, also told the Sebastian City Council that the Chamber’s board of directors unanimously supports the new ordinance.

Pastor Ron Thomas, of Friendship Christian Community, argued against changing the rules to allow for one business to serve alcohol.

He told the council that his was not a moral or religious argument but a matter of showing respect for children and families nearby.

“It’s about where we stand and what we stand for,” Pastor Thomas said.

Members of the Sebastian City Council unanimously supported the ordinance, which does not allow for a free-standing bar within the restaurant.

Councilman Don Wright expressed some misgivings in having such a restriction, telling his fellow council members that he would not want that to be a reason for a quality restaurant to not locate in the city.

He said that the council could later re-evaluate that part of the ordinance if it becomes a burden for potential restaurants.

“It is time to catch up with times,” Councilwoman Andrea Coy said of updating the ordinance so it better reflects the state’s regulations.

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