The Richmond City Commission heard first reading of an ordinance Tuesday clarifying that restaurants licensed to sell alcoholic drinks on Sundays need not close at 9 p.m., just stop selling drinks then.

However, there is not enough support on the commission to allow restaurants to sell drinks beyond 9 p.m., Mayor Jim Barnes said.

The action to clarify the ordinance was begun after Tom Thilman, co-owner of Madison Garden, appeared before the commission at two regular sessions and at least one work session complaining about the ambiguity.

However, Thilman wanted more than a clarification, he asked that drink sales be allowed until 1 a.m., as they are on the other six nights of the week.

Barnes last week, and again Tuesday, said he was opposed to allowing later sales on Sundays. At Tuesday’s work session, Commissioner Donna Baird said she agreed with the mayor, in part, because only Thilman and some of his patrons had asked her for later Sunday hours.

Thilman in an interview last week said he had obtained support of two restaurants in Richmond Centre for later Sundays drink hours.

Commissioners Robert Blythe, Jason Morgan and Richard Thomas attended Tuesday’s work session at the Gibson Bay Golf Course club house but did not say whether they favored later Sunday drink-sale hours.

Ending sales at 9 p.m. was required when the previous city commission voted in August 2007 to allow Sunday drink sales. Blythe, the only member of the previous commission still in office cast the only vote against Sunday sales four years ago.

Second reading and a vote on the ordinance revision could take place as early as the commission’s next regular session on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at City Hall.

When told that Thilman may continue to appear before the commission asking for extended Sunday hours, the mayor said, “He can come back as often as he likes.”

Barnes said he would be reluctant to have an ordinance drafted and put on a meeting agenda unless he knew at least three commissioners supported it. However, if a commissioner wanted a proposed ordinance put to a vote even if it was expected to fail, the mayor said he would have it put on the agenda.

Thilman has said that ending drink sales at 9 p.m. cuts short the time that professional football fans may enjoy watching televised Sunday games at his restaurant.

Barnes noted The Garden chooses to close on Mondays when the National Football League has evening games.

If Thilman wants to sell more drinks while customers watch football, the mayor said, “He can open on Mondays” when sales are allowed until 1 a.m.

Barnes also noted that drinks purchased as late as 9 p.m. Sundays may still be consumed beyond that time.

The commission also heard first reading of two other ordinances on Tuesday. Both would change requirements for new residential developments.

One would require new developments to set aside 0.8 acres of recreational green space for every eight homes or eight bedrooms in multi-family developments.

Playground equipment is not required and the green-space requirement can be fulfilled in the last phase of a multi-phase development, said Jason Hart, the city’s planning director. Unless a waiver is granted, the green-space may not be part of a utility easement.

Developers will be responsible for maintaining the recreational green space, , Hart said, unless they legally pass that requirement to the development’s homeowners association, for example, through a restrictive covenant.

The other ordinance would require developers to submit an irrevocable letter of credit instead of bonds to ensure infrastructure requirements are fulfilled.

The city has been frustrated in trying to collect from bonding companies after a developer fails to complete infrastructure requirements such as putting the final paving cap on streets.

The city is preparing to sue the bonding firm for the Richwood subdivision after years of unfruitful negotions, City Manager Jimmy Howard said.

Banks have been very prompt about satisfying letters of credit when they are called, Howard said. Also, developers are more motivated to satisfy city requirements because outstanding letters of credit limit their ability to borrow more money, he said.

In the future, Barnes said he did not want ordinances heard at off-week work sessions unless their passage was urgent. Discussion of ordinances at off-week work sessions that few citizens attend and that are not carried on the Time Warner Cable public-assess channel tends to limit public involvement, the mayor said.

The city had called a temporary halt to approval of new developments until the new green-space requirement was in place. Expedited approval was needed, Hart said, so new developments could proceed.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@

or at 624-6690.

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