A variance has been granted that will allow Napoli's Italian Restaurant, 525 S. Broadway St., to sell beer and wine about 80 yards away from Joshua High School.
Two Joshua citizens spoke in support of Napoli's request for the variance. Napoli's Italian Restaurant is 242 feet from Joshua High School, just 58 feet inside the 300-foot limit for alcohol sales.
"Earlier tonight, this council talked about trying to attract more businesses to Joshua," Pat Grace said. "What's going to happen if we do get a Chili's or some other chain restaurant in here that's just across the street from Napoli's that's farther than 300 feet from Joshua High School. Now, they can sell all the liquor that they want to while poor Billy [Shemo, the owner of Napoli's] is left out in the cold. Suddenly, all those people who want a cold beer or a glass of wine with their food are going to Chili's or wherever and Billy loses all of that business. I just don't think that's right."
The council was asked to also consider the contributions that Shemo has made to Joshua.
"When a group or some kids need help, he's the first person to make a donation to them and help them out," Grace said. "I think the city needs to work with him on this considering how close his restaurant is to compliance with the 300-foot limit as it is."
The variance request passed by a 4-2 vote. Councilman A.J. Mathieu made the motion and it was seconded by Councilman Glen Walden to support the variance. Councilman Jerry Moore and Mayor Joe Hollarn also supported the variance. Councilmen Matthew Small and Gary Smith opposed the variance. Councilwoman Sharlotta Connally was not present for the vote because of a family emergency.
One letter was written by the Joshua ISD in opposition to the variance.
"There's no question that the owner of Napoli's is a great citizen and has done a lot for the community," said Ronnie Galbreath, president of the Joshua ISD school board. "And I'm sure he wouldn't be serving any underage kids in there. But that's not the point. The point is that it is still too close to the high school and it's too close to our kids. Plus, what we have to remember is that, while the owner of Napoli's is very responsible and a great citizen, what happens if he sells his restaurant?"
Galbreath suggested a chance in ownership would still, by law, allow the restaurant to sell beer and wine.
"Zoning stays with the property, he said. "What about the next owner? How do we know he will be as responsible as Billy is?"
That's why, Galbreath said, he wanted JISD Superintendent Fran Marek to draft a letter of opposition to the variance. The board agreed with Galbreath.
"I think we would be remiss if we didn't at least send the City Council a letter letting them know that we are opposed to it," Galbreath said.
But, as Gilbreath predicted, it passed anyway.
"Sure, people could bring in beer or wine without the variance being passed, but nobody was doing that," Shemo said. "I maybe had one person a week who would bring a bottle of wine and that was it. People just don't want to do that in Joshua. With this new variance, my business could increase about 15 percent and that would really mean a lot to me."