City Commission votes to begin application for EDC license

December 4, 2018 | 8:00 pm

Updated December 6, 2018 | 4:47 am

After years of working to make Owensboro an entertainment destination center (EDC), the City of Owensboro will be applying for the EDC license from the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control committee after tonight’s 4-to-1 vote by city commission.

Mayor Tom Watson, along with city commission members Pamela Smith-Wright, Jay Velotta and Larry Conder voted in favor of applying for the EDC license, while Mayor Pro Tem Bob Glenn voted in opposition.

Several residents of Owensboro spoke publicly at the meeting, discussing their various reasons for being opposed to the EDC license, and Mayor Watson considered tabling the vote after further discussion. His reasoning behind the reconsideration mainly focused on the layout for which the EDC license would permit open containers of alcohol to be carried.

What seemed to sway Mayor Watson was the was a mother who spoke at the podium in regard to her family members’ issues with alcohol addiction. Amanda Tan claimed that her family was new to Owensboro and they loved the city, but after living through her grandfather’s, her father’s and her brother’s alcoholism, Tan felt the EDC license would cause problems for those who struggled with alcoholism, and who just wanted to enjoy downtown Owensboro as a family.

“One of the areas we go to frequently is Smothers Park and the downtown area. We just enjoy the atmosphere and the environment there — it’s very family friendly,” Tan said. “And I’m just concerned that if this goes through, it’ll allow pretty much all of Smothers Park, except for the memorial and the playground, for people to bring alcohol during certain events into those areas. And that just changes the entire environment for a family.”

Tan went on to say that her family doesn’t allow alcohol around the children because of her family’s history with alcohol abuse. She said she was worried for alcoholics who might be tempted to consume and relapse if they were around alcohol, even if they were just downtown to enjoy Smothers Park. The playground and Shelton Memorial are both specifically carved out of the EDC licensing area.

Another resident who spoke against the EDC application going to the state level was Andy Gamblin, a 2018 city commission candidate who’d been outspoken about his opposition at former city commission meetings.

“This is not right. I mean, you know — ya’ll are supposed to be watching over the people,” Gamblin said. “By allowing this, it’s going to cause more harm than good. Our law enforcement — it’s going to be bad on them too.”

Gamblin said the EDC license was so terrible for the community, he couldn’t understand how members of the city commission could go to their churches and look their pastors in the eye.

After hearing from the public, the city commissioners discussed whether it was worth it to take another look at the EDC’s layout in downtown Owensboro. Glenn said that the commission should perhaps even consider carving out Owensboro’s downtown riverfront from the EDC area entirely.

“If that’s the desire of the commission, we can table this and take another closer look,” said City Attorney Steve Lynn. Lynn added that he and other city commission members had come up with the allocated EDC areas after looking at what other cities had done, designing the EDC territory in downtown Owensboro in similar fashion. Lynn also added that an amended layout would require the commission to propose another reading before taking a vote, which would ultimately delay the project.

After Fred Reeves, Director of Downtown Owensboro, spoke at the podium, the skepticism seemed to decline for the commissioners. Reeves said the area would not only be “highly, highly regulated” for the specific events where open alcoholic beverages could be carried, but that it would involve a rigorous application process that would take many aspects into consideration before being approved.

“Make this look like the progressive community we want it to be for our citizens,” Reeves said.

And in the end, that’s what the city commission decided to do. Mayor Watson reassured the crowd and his commissioners that layout changes could be made in the future, if needed. The 4-to-1 vote to send the application to the state means that if it’s approved, Owensboro will be in its final stages to becoming an entertainment destination center.

December 4, 2018 | 8:00 pm

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