Inverness Government Center mug

Tuesday's city council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at Inverness Government Center, 212 W. Main St., Inverness.

Inverness may be dropping its separation rules between bars and schools or hospitals, but not without some opposition from city leaders.

The city council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to approve on first reading an ordinance that removes setback requirements for businesses that sell alcohol.

The new ordinance prohibits alcohol sale or consumption in city parks unless specifically permitted. And it prevents alcohol sale or use at school-sponsored sporting events.

City Manager Frank DiGiovanni said the current ordinance is keeping businesses such as restaurants and hotels from opening because of rules that mandate a certain amount of distance between places that sell alcohol and schools, playgrounds and day care centers.

“We’ve had restaurant people walk because of the antiquated obstacles,” DiGiovanni said.

He said the days of “gin mills” are gone and it’s no longer necessary for the city to separate establishments that serve alcohol from those with other uses.

Council members Linda Bega, Jacquie Hepfer and David Ryan agreed.

“I see this as we are controlling our own destiny,” Ryan said, calling the current law “archaic.”

Bega added: “It’s still in the hands of common sense.”

Council members Cabot McBride and Ken Hinkle disagreed.

McBride said the proposed ordinance may open the door for attractive restaurants or craft-beer businesses, but it doesn’t stop any other alcohol-related business from taking advantage of the change.

“I have this idea of next to Citrus High School, the I Ain’t Here Saloon,” he said.

The second and final reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the council’s next meeting, June 18.

Also Tuesday, the council approved on a 5-0 vote the voluntary annexation of 260 acres owned by John Eden east of the city. The county is expected to fight the annexation in court.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or

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