12/04/12 — Pikeville says 'no' to fees for cafes

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Pikeville says 'no' to fees for cafes

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on December 4, 2012 1:46 PM

PIKEVILLE -- The Pikeville Town Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance governing the operation of Internet cafes Monday, but declined to impose any fees on the businesses, saying a proposal to require the two currently operating in the town to buy a $2,500 a year privilege license and a $500 per machine operating fee wasn't fair.

The action at Monday's meeting was met with a sigh of relief from Internet cafe owners, who said the imposition of the fees would almost certainly cause them to close.

The town's new ordinance governs how late the cafes can operate, how far they have to be from churches or schools and requires their interior operations to be visible from the outside.

But it does not demand fees, as do ordinances approved by other municipalities in Wayne County. Pikeville commissioners had previously indicated they wanted only to follow the lead of other towns in putting restrictions on the cafes.

With no restrictions in place, the town could become a mecca for such cafes, where patrons play computer games to win -- or lose -- money, they said.

But on Monday night, they said that after more consideration they believed singling out the Internet cafes for fees was not right. They noted the businesses were considered legitimate by the state, paid taxes and utility bills and created jobs.

"You are legitimate, and you ought not to be treated differently," Mayor Johnny Weaver said.

The ordinance prohibits the sale of alcohol at an Internet cafe, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from entering, limits hours of operation to Monday through Sunday 8 a.m. until midnight, and requires them to be located on ground floors only and to have plate glass windows that allow visibility from the street.

It also limits the number of tables to 30 and requires any cafe to be at least 500 feet from another gaming operation.

Town board members considered imposing a moratorium on new cafes opening inside the town limits but eventually declined. Cafe owners indicated they would approve of such a measure.

Board member Todd Anderson said he would like to know what a reasonable fee per machine might be. Uzzell said other towns he had similar businesses in charged $100 per machine per year. He noted that other towns, such as Jacksonville and Greenville, had placed moratoriums on new cafes.

After the ordinance was approved, a motion to table the proposed fees also passed.

In other business, the town granted a setback variance for a proposed subdivision, Summerfield, and opened the door to rescind a law limiting the speed of trains to 25 miles per hour, admitting it was superseded by state law that permits 40 mph. A public hearing would need to be held on the issue before the law could be changed, they said.

Board members also gave the American Legion permission to place flags on the graves of veterans buried in the town cemetery. And they said they would help the organization erect a flag at the cemetery and light that would shine on it at night.

James Carter, commander of American Legion Post 541, said the are about 90 veterans thought to be buried in the cemetery.