Council could OK beer permit for legal alien

Friday, September 11, 2009

At least two Lewisburg councilors have expressed agreement with constitutional protections for legal aliens -- such as a local businessman with a 10-year work visa -- so they might obtain city permits to sell beer.

"I don't have any problem amending it," Councilor Quinn Brandon said Tuesday night about changing a city ordinance that prohibits foreigners from having a beer permit unless they have an American partner or their business' corporation holds the permit.

The issue arose during the Sept. 3 meeting of Lewisburg's Beer Board when the panel reviewed an application from Lei Liana Xiao, 40, of 5th Avenue, proprietor of China Wok in the shopping plaza on North Ellington Parkway that includes the Food Lion grocery.

Brandon spoke up after Councilor Robin Minor noted the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission has an opinion from the state Attorney General saying it's unconstitutional to prohibit issuance of a permit to sell alcoholic beverages based on citizenship status.

Under the city law as its written now, it would appear that the Beer Board would have to deny Xiao a permit.

When Lewisburg's law was explained to State ABC Executive Director Danielle Elks during a telephone interview last week and she was asked if she could comment on the situation here, Elks replied that there's a state law similar to Lewisburg's law, but the state ABC issues permits to qualified foreigners because of the Attorney General's opinion.

"The state says we've got to give him one," Minor said Tuesday night during the Council's monthly meeting.

City Manager Eddie Fuller had asked Minor if he wanted to discuss the matter that both men indicated would be presented by City Attorney Bill Haywood. The lawyer was absent from the meeting.

Fuller noted that Lewisburg's law says foreigners can have a beer permit if they have an American partner or if the business they're operating is a corporation.

"Just add that individuals can do that," Minor said, suggesting an amendment as considered during Beer Board discussion.

"Can we do that?" Minor asked Fuller who replied, "You have to ask Haywood."

Brandon, a practicing attorney who also serves as town judge in Petersburg, then expressed no opposition.

"But I'd like it on the agenda," she said of the subject raised under a catch-all agenda item called "other business."

The city attorney might have raised the subject during his report to the Council.