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Alcohol licensees must buy insurance
New ordinance is one of 3 passed by City Council
City of Statesboro seal

Statesboro City Council enacted a requirement last week that all applicants for retail licenses to sell or serve alcoholic beverages must have general liability insurance providing at least $1 million coverage.

Additionally, those seeking a license to serve drinks for on-premises consumption, such as bars and restaurants, must have liquor liability, or “dram shop” insurance with an annual coverage limit of at least $1 million, including a sublimit of at least a $500,000 for assault and battery claims. This added requirement does not apply to stores that sell for off-premises consumption, but the general liability requirement does.

The insurance requirement was one of three Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance amendments approved 5-0 by the council Tuesday. A fourth amendment, which would have changed Statesboro’s definition of bars to the state minimum  and regulated how young adults ages  18-20 can get in for live music and art performances, was rejected 3-2 amid controversy, as reported earlier.

City Attorney Cain Smith’s memo on the insurance amendment stated as background: “Research showed liquor liability insurance is required in many states, despite such requirement measure failing to pass the Georgia Legislature, and the presence of insurance requirements for licensees in the City of Savannah.”

Statesboro’s amendment states that the requirement is for “applicants seeking” alcoholic beverage licenses, indicating that it does not apply retroactively to current-year licenses.

Each policy must contain an endorsement requiring a 30-day notice of cancellation to the city. The city clerk will be required to suspend the alcohol license of any business whose insurance is cancelled, and two cancellations in 12 months would lead to revocation of the license.


No state mandate

A proposed statewide liquor liability insurance requirement was originally part of legislation a few years ago that became Michael’s Law, named for Michael Gatto, an 18-year-old Georgia Southern University freshman who died after a beating at a Statesboro night club in August 2014.

However, the insurance mandate was not part of the law enacted by the Georgia General Assembly, as Smith noted. Instead, Michael’s Law requires that bouncers be at least the legal drinking age of 21, reflecting the fact that Gatto’s assailant was 20 and had worked as a bouncer. The law also includes the minimum definition of bars, which people under age 21 are generally prohibited from entering except for live performances with an admission charge.

The now long-defunct night club where Gatto was assaulted, Rude Rudy’s, was uninsured, his parents noted before they filed suit against the city of Statesboro in 2016. That lawsuit is still pending, and attorneys from the city’s defense team were present for part of a nearly one-hour closed session that concluded Tuesday evening’s 3½-hour council meeting.


Low-volume sales

The council also unanimously adopted an amendment creating a “low-volume license” for businesses that serve some alcoholic beverages but are not restaurants or bars. Hair salons and spas that offer customers a glass of wine have been cited as a typical example.

Specifically, the amendment restricts these low-volume licenses to businesses that receive “wholesale deliveries of alcoholic beverages in an average amount of not more than $1,000 a month over the course of a year.”

However, the ordinance only defines the license category. The mayor and council have not established the price of the license. Officials said that will be done soon through an addition to the city’s schedule of fees.


Special events

The third approved amendment creates permits to be issued for special events at which alcoholic beverages are served.

“Research showed local inability beyond granting open container exemptions, the presence of state law and Department of Revenue memos addressing state requirements, and numerous ordinances governing such events in other municipalities of the state,” Smith wrote in his memo.

Applicants must be caterers licensed by the city to provide alcohol and will also need a state-issued special-event permit.

Each Statesboro special-event permit will be valid for three days at most, will have to be applied for 45 days in advance, and will be subject to police approval of crowd control, traffic control and security measures. Further, the mayor and council will have to approve each permit at a regularly scheduled meeting, and the events will be subject to zoning, code enforcement, and server certification requirements.

The Alcohol Advisory Board unanimously recommended all three of these amendments at its meetings in March, February and April, respectively.

Also Tuesday, the council extended the terms of the six current Alcohol Advisory Board members from June 30 to Sept. 4. The extension is to allow Smith to draft an ordinance creating staggered terms for the advisory board while the mayor and the five City Council members, each of whom appoints one board member, confirm their appointments.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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