The Canton City Council on Tuesday approved the second reading of a change to an ordinance to allow the pouring of beer, wine and distilled spirits until 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The serving hours were previously from 9 a.m. to midnight.
The change was approved 4-2, with Councilmembers Jack Goodwin and Bill Bryan opposed.
"I am happy for the city and for the merchants," said Councilman Bob Rush, adding that extending the serving hours was one of his goals when he came into office this year. "Now we can compete on a level playing field. It might encourage new restaurants to come to Canton."
Jeff Merback, owner of Fabiano's Pizzeria in downtown Canton, said the change in the serving time is an important matter for local restaurants.
"It will put us in the mix with everyone else in the county," he said. Other jurisdictions in the county had pouring hours until 2 a.m. "The city gets more tax dollars that everyone knows the city needs."
But Bryan said the ability to sell alcohol in the city was approved by the voters and any changes to the ordinance should be put in front of the voters. He said the action by the council should be called a "bar referendum."
"It is another step toward bringing bars into Canton," he said.
Merback said the longer hours are not an attempt to bring bars to the city.
"This was never about turning downtown Canton into Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras," he said. "It was to allow existing and new businesses that come to Canton to be on the same footing."
Goodwin proposed the council table the issue so the vote could be advertised, but the proposal was defeated.
At a meeting earlier this month, the council heard from five residents in favor of the extension of serving hours and two who spoke in opposition. During Tuesday's meeting, the council heard from two more residents in favor of the time extension. No residents spoke in opposition to the measure.