Court says Centerville can ban new bars, liquor stores

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- There is only one place in the Reynolds County town of Centerville where you can get a beer, and city leaders want to keep it that way.

With a ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District, they got their wish.

A three-judge panel of the Springfield-based court on Monday reversed a circuit judge and upheld a city ordinance designed to keep additional liquor stores or bars out of town.

Centerville Mayor Dennis Caruso said a single liquor store is enough for the small Southeast Missouri city of 171 residents.

"We work for the people here, and the people didn't want any more than one liquor store in town," Caruso said. "I'm glad we won."

New competition

In 2001, Paul and Martha Jordan sought a license to operate a package liquor store in Centerville. The board of aldermen rejected the request and then enacted an ordinance capping the number of city liquor licenses at one.

Since the Centerville Quick Stop already held a liquor license, the new ordinance precluded other establishments from selling alcohol in the city.

The Jordans challenged the ordinance as anti-competitive and in March 2003 Reynolds County Circuit Court Judge Max Price declared it "arbitrary, unreasonable and unconstitutional."

The city appealed, claiming it acted in the public's interest, despite any resulting restraint of trade. The Jordans didn't respond to the appeal and made no arguments supporting the lower court's decision.

In an opinion written by Judge John E. Parrish, the appeals court said no person has an inherent right to sell alcohol and that government regulation helps preserve "the public peace, good order and security against dangers arising from the traffic of such liquors." The court reversed Price's decision and directed him to declare the ordinance valid.

"City's claim that its enactment of an ordinance limiting the number of liquor licenses it would issue was a valid police power, notwithstanding that it limits competition, is well taken," Parrish wrote.

In addition to Centerville's single liquor store, Caruso said there is also a tavern about one mile outside of the city limits.

The case is Paul and Martha Jordan v. City of Centerville.

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