Sunday, February 11, 2001

Beer for brunch? Not in Covington

But city may change restaurant law

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Sports fans who want to quaff a beer in a Covington restaurant or bar before hitting a Reds or Bengals game on Sundays may soon get their wish.

        On Tuesday, the Covington City Commission will decide whether to allow those bars and restaurants with drink licenses to sell beer on Sundays as early as 11 a.m. Current Covington law prohibits them from selling a brew before 1 p.m. on Sundays.

        Covington restaurant owners have complained about losing business to Cincinnati bars and restaurants, which can serve beer as early as 5:30 a.m. on Sundays. The proposed change would not apply to sales of wine and mixed drinks, which are regulated by state law.

        “There are a lot of people who just drive right across the river and don't spend their money in Northern Kentucky,” said Dave Ammon, owner of Tickets Sports Cafe in Covington. “They've spent a lot of money to get a seat at a Reds or Bengals game, and they don't want to miss any of it.”

        Aidan Bowles, who opened Jack Quinn's Irish Restaurant and Pub near Covington's riverfront three years ago, is one of the chief proponents of early beer sales on Sundays. For him, the issue came to a head when 10 Green Bay Packers fans walked out before a Sunday Bengals game, after being told they couldn't order beer with their lunch.

        “When we said we couldn't serve beer until 1 o'clock, they dropped their menus and went across the river to Cincinnati,” Mr. Bowles said.

        Covington city officials, including the mayor and five commissioners, say they are willing to consider the change, but they first want to hear what the community thinks.

        Residents and business owners wishing to address the issue can attend Covington City Commission's informal caucus meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. 2/13 If they want to discuss a specific issue on Tuesday's agenda must first call the Covington city manager's office Monday. 2/12

        “I can understand some of the businesses' concerns, especially during football season,” Mayor Butch Callery said. “I say, let's explore it.”

        If Covington officials decide to ease the Sunday beer restrictions, formal approval would come at a legislative meeting, possibly later this month.

        Sheree Allgood, spokeswoman for the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, pointed out that many convention meetings end on Sunday mornings.

        “Maybe (delegates) would stay a little longer, and spend a little more money in Covington,” she said.

        Ann Wilson, president of the Northern Kentucky Restaurant Association, added: “I think a lot more people might come into the city earlier” on Sundays.

        Commissioner Jerry Bamberger said Covington's restriction on Sunday beer sales is a throwback to old “blue laws” that prohibited Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages to encourage church attendance.

        Commissioner Alex Edmondson said that he's willing to do “whatever the community thinks is best,” provided the city doesn't run into legal problems.


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