The debate of alcohol sales within the city once again spilled out during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Stephenville City Council. This time, a local restaurant requested rezoning and also applied for a variance to the city’s code of ordinances.

Venigno Mascorro, owner of Don Nico’s, completed an application for a rezoning amendment in late December. Following the request, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) recommended approving the change from B-2 “Retail and Commercial Business District” to B-5 “Restaurant/Alcoholic Beverage Service District,” with seven members of the commission voting in favor of the switch and three voting against.

In addition to the need to rezone the establishment, an amendment that followed the Nov. 4 vote to legalize beer and wine sales for off premise consumption, a variance to the city’s code of ordinances would also be required to allow Don Nico’s to sell alcohol.

Prior to Erath County going wet, the variance would have not been required since ordinances in place at the time stated that businesses could not sell alcohol within 300 feet of a public school. Under the old rules, the distance between the business and school was measured from front door to front door. In December, the council adopted an ordinance that states the distance, which is still 300 feet, is measured from property line to property line. Using the current standard of measurement, Don Nico’s would not be allowed to sell alcohol without the variance since it is located within 300 feet of Central Elementary.

Prior to the council’s vote, a public hearing was held which allowed those in favor of or against the changes to speak up. While nobody spoke in favor of the proposed changes, concerned citizen Johnnie Huffman spoke against the request.

Huffman said he was not against Don Nico’s, a restaurant that he frequents, but he was against the proposal to rezone the eatery and allow alcohol so close to the school, which instructs the school district’s youngest students, pre-k and kindergarteners.

“I encourage you to, and hope you will, vote against the rezoning,” Huffman said.

Council member Pat Shelbourne expressed a similar concern over the proximity to the elementary school.

Shelbourne said he called the superintendent, who polled the Stephenville ISD board of trustees, and said that only one of the six-seated members objected. Shelbourne also said he contacted the school’s principal, Judy Walker, and said she had no objections since children do not walk near the restaurant.

“My concern has always been drinking and driving,” Shelbourne said. “That is why I will vote against (the rezoning.)”

The variance passed in a 5-3 split.