Council Passes Changes to Alcohol Ordinance

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Photo Source: Mispillion River Brewing on Airport Rd in Milford, DE.
Photo Source: Mispillion River Brewing on Airport Rd in Milford, DE.

By Terry Rogers

On Tuesday, May 26, Milford City Council approved changes to the town’s alcohol ordinance after a public hearing held before the council meeting. Before the change, Milford City ordinance prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages either on or off premises that were located within 1,000 feet of public or private schools, daycares, child care centers or churches. The change to the ordinance will allow alcohol sales within the specified area as long as they prepare food to be served, consumed or taken out or if alcoholic beverages are produced at the location.

“We tried to make the wording as specific as possible,” Mayor Bryan Shupe explained. “But the way the ordinance was worded, if a restaurant or brewpub wanted to open in downtown Milford, we would have to turn them down. Since we are working toward economic development in the downtown area, we wanted to allow some flexibility. We aren’t allowing liquor stores within those limits.”

According to City Solicitor, David Rutt, a law pending in state legislature that would allow beer and wine to be sold in convenience stores could supersede the city law as state law takes precedence over city ordinances. If the law passes, any convenience store located in the downtown area would be permitted to sell beer and wine even if they were located near a church.

“What if someone wants to open a high-end wine store?” SaraKate Hammer, President of Downtown Milford Inc., asked the council. “I am talking about high-end wines and possibly cheeses, olives, things like that. Would that fall under the category of a liquor store?” After discussion, it was decided to add the wording “unless either food is prepared and served for consumption or take-out.” This would allow a deli to serve beer and wine if they chose a downtown location.

City Manager, Hans Medlarz, explained that, as the ordinance stood, the City could not entertain any business who wanted to open a restaurant that served alcohol. With the new ordinance, a deli or a wine and cheese store would fit the criteria that would allow them to open in the downtown area.

“The traditional church with the steeple no longer exists in Milford,” said Councilwoman Katrina Wilson. “We have quite a few storefront churches in town. I can see how forbidding alcohol sales in the downtown area could put too many restrictions on economic development.” Mayor Shupe agreed that there needed to be some leeway, but that because businesses like brewpubs and distilleries were exploding throughout the state, the City did not want to discourage such an economic benefit from locating within the downtown area.

The changes to the ordinance passed unanimously.