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Alcohol Board: Consider allowing bars in Statesboro

Feb. 7 work session planned to discuss possible ordinance changes

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    The Statesboro Alcohol Control Board set a date Tuesday for a planning session to discuss potential changes to the alcohol ordinance. Reducing the first offense penalty from three days to one day and possibly removing the 50/50 requirement from restaurants — allowing for the creating of 21-and-over bars — is on the table.
    “Let restaurants be restaurants and bars be bars,” said Statesboro Councilman Gary Lewis during his reelection campaign last fall and he said it again at the most recent ACB meeting this past Tuesday.
    The ACB’s work session is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.
    The current city ordinance states that in order to have an alcohol license, restaurants must serve at least 50 percent food - commonly known as the 50/50 law. As a result, people under the age of 21 are able to enter those establishments which are perilously close to the 50 percent limit.
    Lewis said it is time to reconsider the 50/50 law because the current situation allows underage drinkers to get lost in the shuffle of a busy evening.
    “I stand by the statements I made during my campaign,” said Lewis. “If we have bars, then they could not let anyone under the age of 21 get in. This would make it easier to police underage drinking.”
    Nancy Waters, ACB member, isn’t ready to abolish the 50/50 law just yet, but said she sees how creating 21-and-over establishments might limit underage drinking.
    “I think it might to be time to consider the possibility, especially if it helps curb underage drinking,” said Waters.
    ACB member Paul Ferguson is concerned that the current ordinances may discourage new establishments from coming to Statesboro.
    “It’s a growing community. We’ve got some very good restaurants, but we don’t want a situation where a restaurant decides not to come here because we have so many restrictions that they decide not to come,” said Ferguson. “This would be detrimental to the community.”
    Waters said she would like to see the ordinance improved.
    “We’d like to make it meet the purpose, which is that we’re not serving underage people or people that are intoxicated,” said Waters. “But we don’t want to make it so restrictive that it gives our city a bad name.”
    Changes to the alcohol ordinance, made last fall, stripped the authority of the ACB to issue penalties for alcohol violations by license holders. Currently, they can only make recommendations to the city council. Final punitive determinations are made by the council.
    As a result of the board diminished role in alcohol decisions, it has been rumored that the ACB may eventually be phased out.
    While the board may have diminished authority, Waters feels it has nonetheless marked value to the community. In particular, it gives alcohol license holders a voice, since it is required that two seats on the board be license holders.
    “That’s been the real benefit of having the board in place. We get to see the situation from the bar owners’ point of view,” said Waters.
    Any changes to the alcohol ordinance would have to be approved by the city council before they take effect.

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