A RaceA Beer: Greenetrack to begin serving Sunday alcohol after approval

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

EUTAW – The majority of Greene County’s commissioners voted Monday to allow Greenetrack the right to sell alcohol on Sunday. The chairman of that commission, however, cried foul in the entire plan.

On a vote of 3-to-1 (Commissioner Edna Chambers was not present Monday), the Greene County Commission took the next step in a Sunday alcohol bill after it passed the Alabama Legislature last week. The Commission, which had the final say on the bill, agreed to the legislation, which means Greenetrack will sell alcohol on Sundays.

But Commission Chairman Chip Beeker Jr. believes the new law has given Greenetrack a near monopoly over other retail businesses in the county on Sundays.

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“They have an illegal monopoly now and are discriminating against the other businesses in the county and the rest of Alabama because, for them, it is still illegal,” Beeker said.

The chairman said he was the only commissioner to oppose the vote and that he was disheartened by the lack of community response to the issue. He also said he was a traditionalist and believed that between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon there should be no alcohol period and that is why he was opposed to the bill.

“I was hoping some more citizens would have shown up to fight this because I serve the people and no one really came to me and asked me to try and stop it,” Beeker said.

The CEO of Greenetrack, Luther Winn, was on hand during the meeting and made clear the advantage this would give his company.

“I sent every one of you a letter requesting that you vote for the bill on Greenetrack being allowed to sell alcohol on Sunday,” he said.

According to Winn, customers have requested Sunday alcohol sales, and serving their needs, he said, is the top priority for Greenetrack.

Commissioner William Johnson made the motion to approve Greenetrack’s request and three commissioners Donald Means, Johnson and Willie Webster voted for the request. Beeker was the only one to oppose the request.

“I’m glad the commissioners honored our request,” Winn said.

Asked if he was surprised at the vote, Winn said he wasn’t.

“No, the customers wanted it and we wanted to get it for them.”

He said this move would allow Greenetrack to serve alcohol 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Beeker, on the other hand, wishes there could have been a compromise made. For instance, he believes all Greene County businesses should have been given the right to sell alcohol on Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. However, the lack of opposition at the commission meeting made it impossible for Beeker to seek that compromise.

State Sen. Charles Steele, D-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the legislation to make legal Sunday alcohol sales at Greenetrack.

In a separate piece of legislation, Steele requested the pay for members of the Greene County Racing Commission be raised from $16,800 to $42,000 a year. The legislation eliminated a per-diem pay for each race attended by commissioners.

Gov. Bob Riley, who did not sign the bill, said he would not be opposed if the base pay were reduced to $25,000 and a $50 per-diem pay was given to commissioners.

“… by deleting the per diem compensation, no longer encourages attendance at racing events by the respective commissioners,” Riley said. “Their personal attendance should be encouraged by the per diem aspect of compensation.”

Riley’s amendments to the legislation passed through the Alabama Legislature and also become law.