Tahlequah Daily Press

January 4, 2012

Debate over wine, beer gets heated

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah City Council on Tuesday denied a secon request by Tom Barlow for a wine-tasting and beer garden next fall.

The denial came less than a month after the council had originally denied the request. In December, Mayor Jason Nichols told Barlow he wanted to put together an all-inclusive city policy before approving of the wine and beer events. Council members Jack Spears and Diane Weston said they wanted more information on existing policy.

Barlow, on Tuesday, re-appeared before the council and reiterated the need for the events’ approval as soon as possible, and stressed he didn’t want to upset anyone. Without approval, Barlow said he can’t book performers for the event – slated next fall at Norris Park – and also will miss some grant money. Without the wine-tasting and beer garden, Barlow said he can’t afford to have the event.

He said he spoke to former Mayor Ken Purdy after the December council meeting, and that Purdy was “pretty upset by the whole thing.” Barlow said the discussion with Purdy centered around a city council action from last year that Barlow believes covers the request.

“There is a law on the books, but probably not as detailed as what you would want,” Barlow said. “[I’m asking you to] grant me the ‘yes’ vote so I can keep working on this year’s event under the laws that exist right now.”

Weston asked Barlow if he would be willing to take a gamble should the city approve his request but require him to follow guidelines that haven’t yet been presented. Barlow said he would.

“All I’m asking for is another couple of weeks, a month at the most,” Nichols told Barlow. “All I’m asking for is to follow the original timeline that we set out [at the last meeting]. I just want to have time to flesh that policy out based upon the ordinance which you cited... . We’re going to have to have some way of handling [similar requests] rather than just always handling them at the council level.”

Barlow again referred to a discussion with Purdy about existing law.

“May I mention what Mayor Purdy said? That [the existing ordinance] was purposefully put at the council level because if you put some rules down, people have to fill in the blanks to get permission to do it – anybody could do it or they could sue,” said Barlow. “The decision has got to be here. That’s just one comment, but [Purdy] made a bunch of comments.”

Nichols again said he requested the council give him more time to “flesh out” the city’s policy “so it doesn’t have to continually come to council.”

“And if former Mayor Purdy disagrees with that particular decision, he’s got about a three-year wait before he can run against me,” said Nichols. “That’s all I’m asking for.”

Council member Linda Spyres, who urged Barlow to reappear before the council, said the board should give him an answer. She said several of her constituents voiced surprise that the council turned down the request last month.

Nichols said the council technically gave Barlow an answer last month when the request was denied.

Spyres eventually made a motion to grant Barlow permission for the wine-asting and beer garden, with the stipulation that he be forced to abide by any policies set forth by the council in the coming months.

Weston and Spyres voted in favor of the approval, with council members Maurice Turney and Spears voting against it. Nichols broke the tie by voting against the request.

“Provide us a little bit more time, we’ll have something set up for you,” Nichols told Barlow after the vote.