Legal alien gets OK to serve beer

Friday, October 23, 2009
Beer Board Chairman John M. Lambert, left, holds beer sale permit papers authorizing sale of beer with meals at China Wok, owned and operated by Mei Liang Xiao.

Lewisburg's Beer Board this week issued a beer sale permit to a man from China who's here with a legal work permit.

Mei Liang Xiao, 40, of 5th Avenue, the sole proprietor of China Wok in the North Ellington Parkway shopping plaza with Quizno's, was granted the permit on the strength of a legal opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General's Office.

It's unconstitutional to treat legal aliens different from U.S. citizens, according to the state's attorney. As a result, not only was the permit granted, the city's Beer Ordinance is being changed because it says foreign nationals can't get a beer permit without a partner who's a U.S. citizen, or operate as a corporation.

Xiao attended Monday's Beer Board meeting with his son, Eric Xiao, who translated what was said in English by the board members into Chinese so he would know what was going on.

City Councilman Robin Minor, a history teacher at Lewisburg Middle School who's also a member of the Beer Board, said on Sept. 1 when Xiao's application was first considered, that there was a conflict and that the city ordinance would have to be changed.

On Oct. 13, Tuesday last week, the City Council voted for an amendment that includes a new definition of "a person" so that it includes foreign nationals who are working here legally. Xiao has a 10-year work permit, so he's a legal alien.

Xiao is originally from Fujian, China, according to Eric Xiao who works at the restaurant just south of the building recently used as a CVS Pharmacy.

Beer Board member Trigg Cathey seconded Board Chairman John M. Lambert's motion to issue a permit to serve beer with meals to Xiao and Minor's vote made it unanimous.

"If they meet all the criteria, we have to give it to them," Lambert said.

The Council unanimously voted last week to amend its Beer Ordinance. It takes three successful votes and a public hearing for proposed ordinances to become law.

City Attorney Bill Haywood "has a state attorney's opinion," Minor said, "and that makes the city's ordinance in line with the opinion."

Also Monday, the Beer Board issued a permit to Mukesh Patel, proprietor of the ByPass Market at 534 North Ellington Parkway.

Patel is running the convenience store through a corporation and, therefore, didn't face the issues facing Xiao, Minor said.

As the board examined Patel's application, members noticed that his driver's license is from Massachusetts.

That's "because we have business in Massachusetts," Patel explained.

Minor responded: "So, you plan on getting a Tennessee driver's license?" Patel said yes.

Lambert explained the hours of operation that are permitted for selling beer and both applicants indicated that they understood.

After a few more reminders about the city's control over beer, Lambert said, "Alright, that's all we need..."

He also told them that the permit is to be hung on the wall in a place where it can be seen.

The meeting took nearly 15 minutes.