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Our Views: Pettiness of alcohol ordinance shows up again

      A little less than six years ago, a Georgia Southern University professor brought before the Statesboro City Council legitimate concerns about clubs/restaurants near the campus giving away alcoholic drinks at no charge, holding alcohol drinking contests and the targeting by the clubs of young women in particular to abuse alcohol.
      But instead of focusing on the problems caused by a few clubs and crafting laws to effectively stop abuses at those clubs, the council chose to overhaul the entire alcohol ordinance. At the time, we argued the city went too far in setting a time specific happy hour, regulating what restaurants could charge for alcoholic beverages, setting a one drink per person limit per purchase and other silly rules regarding seating and dancing.
      There's little question that the alcohol ordinance changes passed in 2005 affected many restaurants with an alcohol license even if almost all never had the smallest of problems serving alcohol. It was government overkill of a problem that needed to be addressed using a far more narrow approach directed at the handful of clubs where there was real abuse.
      But the laws went on the books and for the past five and a half years, the restaurants/clubs have dealt with them as best they can. And for the most part, police issued few citations for violations specific to the ordinance. That changed last week.
      Responding to "numerous complaints received in reference to violations of the City of Statesboro alcohol ordinance," Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner said city police did a compliance check of 13 restaurants. Five - Buffalo's, Kbob Kelly's, Dos Primos, Rude Rudys and Southern Billiards - were found in violation of two parts of the ordinance, pricing of alcoholic beverages and hours of sale.
      According to the ordinance, businesses can cut the price of drinks with alcohol between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. only and by no more than half of the regular price. In other words, a $3 beer or drink could be reduced in price to $1.50 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., if a business chooses.
      Any reduction more than half the cost of the regular price or if a drink is sold at the reduced price other than between 5 and 7 is against city ordinance. Imagine if the city limited how much a furniture store or flower shop or any retail operation could lower its prices and on top also told them exactly when and only when they could offer that discount. It was ridiculous five years ago and remains so today.
      One specific part of the pricing section of the ordinance that is especially nonsensical is that a pitcher of beer or a carafe of wine cannot be served to an individual at a table. The ordinance states two or more persons must be seated at the table. According to the manager of Kbob Kelley's, that's what an employee was cited for last Thursday.
      A 32-ounce glass of beer or mixed drink served to an individual is OK, but a pitcher is not? Should the city also limit the size of TV you want to buy according to the size of your family? If you're single anything over 48" is against the law? Only a family of five could have a screen larger than 60"? Telling a restaurant how much it's allowed to sell of its product is ludicrous.
      We don't fault the police in the compliance sweep. They were doing their job. But we agree with the managers of Buffalo's and Kbob Kelly's that enforcement should focus on stopping underage drinking and the use of fake IDs.
      When determining the fines of workers cited at the five restaurants, we hope the municipal court judge will view the offenses in the light they deserve - as not deserving of any penalty.
      In the same vein, we urge the city council not to suspend the alcohol licenses of the five businesses cited. Further, we hope council members would look again at the alcohol ordinance and reduce its 10 articles and dozens of sections into a more concise, comprehensible and reasonable set of regulations.

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