Following more than an hour of discussion and public comment during the June 18 Cabot City Council meeting, consideration of a private club permit application for Cabot 8 VIP cinema will be continued at the July 16, 2018 Council meeting. Should the Alcohol Beverage Control Board approve the permit, theater owner Matt Smith plans to sell single servings of beer and wine at the theater.
City Council members Damon Bivins, Ann Gilliam, Ed Long, Norma Naquin, Rick Prentice, Doug Warner and Ron Waymack attended the meeting, presided by Mayor Bill Cypert.
The matter is City Council business because state law requires private club permit applications to be accompanied by an ordinance by “the governing body of the county or municipality in which the private club seeks to be located,” approving operation of the club.
Under consideration is Ordinance No. 21 Of 2018 – “Approving The Application Of Cabot 8 VIP Cinema, Inc. For A Private Club, Pursuant To Act 1112 Of 2017, To Be Located At 100 Cinema Blvd…”
The continuation is part of the law-making process requiring a proposed ordinance to be read three times before it is enacted; the reading Monday was the second reading of the ordinance.
At the invitation of Warner, Lanny Richmond, Arkansas Municipal League staff attorney for Municipal Ordinance Codification Service, spoke to the council concerning the ordinance.
Richmond cautioned that there is little guidance concerning the application of the law. In a “wet city in a wet county” there would be little to no difficulty, but that is not the case at Cabot where a denial is possible, he remarked.
Naquin commented on the question being location rather than a permit. “We have no guidelines to say it is too close to schools and churches,” she said.
“This is where it would be nice to have policies … [The Council] need to be very clear on why we are making our decision,” Richmond remarked in later discussion. “That is why it is important to get something in writing.” Without such policies, there is the possibility of claims of unfair treatment and resulting lawsuits.
Other discussion remarks referred to the number of private club permits now operating at Cabot as well as throughout Lonoke County despite being a “dry” county and city.
Warner remarked that creating an ordinance “Is not done overnight.”
Steve Morley, attorney for Smith, said that, as a member of the community, “The last thing [Smith] wants or will do is file a lawsuit.”
In sales to minors, his own experience representing Smith and the record of the theaters with permits, with no violations for sales to minors, supports Smith, Morley said.
After open comment and answering questions, “Let’s read the second time today, and move forward to the third reading and at the next council meeting,” Morley said.
During public comment, Cabot resident Nick Whitaker questioned prior statements of no viola-tions, distributing copies of a Sept. 18, 2017, settlement by Smith of an open-container violation.
In that order, Smith paid a $300 fine and placed on six months probation.
In later discussion Smith said those involved are no longer employed by the theater, and that all employees are now required training at ABC classes and attend a “Safe Serve” program.
Twelve others, mostly Cabot residents, remarked on the application, calling on council members to remember that safety and the family-friendly culture of Cabot are a large part of why many people move to the area.
Smith said his reason for requesting the permit is to offer a convenience that many customers are requesting, though a low percentage of customers buy beer or wine. The largest selling beverage is sodas, second largest is diet sodas, the largest selling food item is popcorn, he remarked.
A large part of the reason is to have options, Smith said. Only about 1.5 percent of customers buy the “adult” beverages, but having the option to do so is important to people, he said.
Adult beverages would not be sold during times of children-oriented movies, using “Deadpool” as an example of when the beverages would be sold. Smith said.
One commenter questioned the example as an action-type movie attended by many children.
After discussion, and not hearing any council member request to stop the process, Cypert de-clared the consideration would carry on to the July 16 Council meeting for the third, and final, reading.
In other Council actions:
The second reading of the rezone of 2016 and 2012 South Second St. from R-1 to C-2 was ap-proved.
Amendment of Cabot Unified Development Code to add special exceptions was approved.
Third reading of the ordinance to add a $20 jail expense fine to help cover costs of operating the city jail was approved.
Annexation of Lakewood Subdivision Phase II Annex was approved.
The appointment of Charles Ward to The Cabot Planning Commission was approved.