To the point week of 11-5-09

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MAYBE IT’S TIME TO CALM down.

Over the past few weeks information has been spreading around the Vevay community and Switzerland County in general about a proposed ordinance that the Vevay Town Council is looking at which would allow alcoholic beverages to be served on public sidewalks.

The specific focus of the ordinance deals with a restaurant downtown that wants its patrons to be able to have an alcoholic beverage at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, which are located on town sidewalks.

Public focus has leaned back and forth with regard to the restaurant; but in reality members of the community need turn their attention from a specific business and look at the matter with a more long range focus.

This decision, which is expected to be made at the Vevay Town Council meeting on Wednesday, November 11th, cannot be aimed at one specific business. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote cannot be cast based on one specific business.

Doing so is unfair to the business which happens to be the beneficiary at this moment; but the public needs to keep in mind that any and all ordinances that a town council or a county governing body passes reaches past the present and well out into the future.

It is my understanding that the version of the ordinance the town council is looking at would restrict the allowance of outdoor alcohol to businesses that derive at least 80-percent of its income from food. That means that restaurants would be allowed to serve their customers a beer or a glass of wine at a sidewalk table; while taverns and bars would have to keep their beverages indoors.

Is that fair to those businesses?

As a resident of Vevay, don’t simply hear the words “alcohol” and “sidewalk” and jump to conclusions. My advise is to attend the meeting on November 11th, hear the town council’s thoughts, read the ordinance, and then express your thoughts.

If a town ordinance is considered, it must take on its own life. An ordinance passed today cannot open up Pandora’s box tomorrow. The governing body considering it has to look into the future and – to the best of its ability – determine how this same ordinance might be implemented in the future.

No municipality can smoothly operate if it constantly has to go back and correct itself after discovering loopholes in laws and ordinances.

That’s in no way saying that the Vevay Town Council has not done its homework. Every indication is that the members of the council and the town attorney have looked at different aspects and applications and versions of the ordinance. Council members have a thankless job; but the question in front of them comes down to the good of the public and the benefit of retailers not only now, but also in the future.

– Does a continuation of the current law prohibiting alcohol and open containers on the streets severely hamper a retailer’s ability to make a profit?

– If it enhances the profits of a retailer, does it restrict the rights and privileges of the residents of the town?

– If restaurants are allowed to move out onto the sidewalks; does that also allow every other business in town to also move out onto the sidewalks to do business? Will walking traffic have to be restricted so as not to interfere with business being conducted? Will public sidewalks become an extension of retail space?

As members of the community, citizens also have to see past single businesses and focus on the future as well as the present. Petitions and threats simply back units of government into a corner that they may be prepared to fight their way out of; and what we are left with are decisions that come more from emotion than fact and thought.

There are many layers to this “onion”, and before the Vevay Town Council, or any governmental body, acts to enact an ordinance affecting taxpayers and businesses; it better be as sure as it can be about the long term impact that whatever the ordinance is has on the entire community.

Good and bad.

It’s time to take some time, calm down members of the community; and look past the emotion of the moment and try and see the bigger picture.