In the midst of prolonged City Council deliberation on whether 19- and 20-year-olds should be allowed entry into local bars and taverns, another alcohol-related issue has emerged that appears likely to stir debate.
Last July, Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law a measure allowing bars statewide to sell liquor by the drink between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight on Sunday, regardless of whether the establishment sells food or is legally defined as a resort.
In Maryville, however, bars are prohibited from serving customers between 1:30 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday.
That's OK, since it's permissible for municipalities to enforce stricter bar-hours rules than those set forth by the Legislature. Such local ordinances, however, cannot extend open-bar times beyond what is provided for by state statute.
So the effect of the new law on Maryville is that bars would be able to open on Sunday if a majority of the City Council votes to allow them to do so. And that is exactly the action members of American Legion Post 100, which operates a bar known as the Canteen at 1104 E. Fifth St., want the council to take.
Post 100 Commander Amos Clampit attended this week's council meeting and urged the city's governing board to align its Sunday tavern hours with those allowed under state law.
He argued that since Post 100 lost its tax-exempt status a few years back due to maintaining excessive funds, the Legion has less money to contribute toward scholarships and other civic initiatives.
Being able to open the Canteen on Sundays, Clampit said, would restore some of that cash, much of which would be funneled into various worthy causes. He added that there is also wide support for Sunday Canteen hours among Post 100 members.
The quandary for the council is that it is not allowed to pick and choose which bars can open on Sunday and which can't. Once passed, the ordinance would apply to all liquor-by-the-drink establishments as well as stores selling package liquor, according to City Attorney Doug Thomson.
Stores and supermarkets in Maryville that sell package liquor are already allowed to do so on Sunday afternoons and evenings. Restaurants whose food receipts make up at least 75 percent of their total business can also serve alcohol on Sunday.
Bars choosing to take advantage of Sunday hours, if ultimately approved by the council, would have to buy an additional state liquor license, which costs $200. In addition, the city is empowered to require its own Sunday license for which it could charge up to $300.
The council took no action Monday other than agreeing to seek citizen input. Councilman Glenn Jonagan asked Maryville Public Safety Director Keith Wood if allowing bars to open on Sunday would require additional law enforcement resources.
Wood responded that the change "could potentially create some more load" but stopped short of saying the city would have to hire additional officers.