After discussing a variety of proposals since January, Statesboro City Council adopted an Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance amendment Tuesday that creates an “underage permit” for “bars with kitchens” to admit patrons under age 21 for live music and art performances.
But nothing in the amendment takes effect immediately, as licensing requirements now have to be reworked to fit the new provisions.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” City Attorney Cain Smith said. “This is a complete overhaul.”
When the amended ordinance does take effect, it will limit each kitchen-equipped bar that gets and underage permit to hosting at most 12 such performances each year.
It also creates some other opportunities for other types of businesses that serve alcohol to people 21 and over to admit younger patrons for food and entertainment.
For example, “pubs” are defined as making at least 40 percent of their annual sales from prepared meals. Pubs will be required to send away any minors under age 18 after 10 p.m. unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. But these same pubs will be allowed to admit customers 18-20 as long as the kitchens are serving meals and live music is performed.
Neither a restaurant, a pub nor a bar with a kitchen will be allowed to let a patron under age 21 to sit at an “alcohol dispensing station,” in other words the actual bar area.
“Event venues” that serve alcoholic beverages “only incidental” to ticketed events can do so without any food service requirement and may admit anyone regardless of age. Stadiums and concert halls are examples, Smith said
These venues will be allowed to open to the public for only one hour before and after hosted events, including “advertised sporting events, projected cinematic showings, live musical concerts, performing arts presentations and performances.”
The chosen option
In the approved amendment, “bars with kitchens” had been added to the five categories of pouring establishments Councilman Phil Boyum had named in his July 17 proposal. These were bars, pubs, restaurants, event venues and low-volume. Low-volume alcohol licenses, for places such as salons and spas that offer customers a drink, were created in a separate amendment passed in July and so were not defined further but only listed in Tuesday’s amendment.
The mayor and council came into Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting with two versions of the amendment in front of them for a second reading, and were asked to adopt one of the two. Smith had followed council members’ Aug. 7 instructions in presenting two options for a vote.
The first option would have closely tracked Georgia’s minimum definition of a bar as a place that makes 75 percent or more of its annual revenue from serving alcoholic beverages. It would also have adopted the state exemption allowing unaccompanied youth under age 21 into bars for live musical and artistic performances for which an admission fee is charged. Even this option would have added some local limitations.
Tuesday’s second option, the one council adopted, used Boyum’s five-category proposal as its core. To this, Smith added some language from an alternative proposal presented Aug. 7 by Mike Vaquer. a Savannah-based lobbyist for the Georgia Restaurant Association.
The idea of an underage permit was adapted from Vaquer’s proposal, but the amendment the council approved is more restrictive.
Ordinary bars will not be required to have a kitchen but will not have access to the underage permit for hosting performances open to 18- through 20-year-olds.
Bars with kitchens and Health Department inspection certificates will be allowed the apply for annual permits to host performances that people in the 18-20 range can attend. During these events, the kitchen must remain open offering a “full or substantial menu.” Additionally, card scanners must be used to check for age at the door, and patrons 21 and over must be issued wristbands and served any alcoholic beverages in a colored plastic cup during events where under-21s are admitted.
After getting its underage permit approved by the mayor and council, a bar with a kitchen can hold its 12 performances at any time during the year, but must give the city clerk and police chief at least 10 days notice before each.
The amendment defines restaurants as places that make at least 70 percent of their sales from prepared meals. Restaurants face no age restrictions on admitting customers.
License renewal date
Tuesday this version was passed quickly with almost no further discussion.
Boyum, who made the motion, did talk about a perceived need to change the timing of alcoholic beverage license renewals from the current due date of July 1. He suggested that a renewal date of Dec. 31 would allow restaurants and bars to pay their fees when they have a better flow of cash, but this wasn’t made part of Tuesday’s vote.
“One of the other things that the business owners have sort of asked for and what this is like a precursor to is trying to make the licensing not only a little bit easier, but (fit) in their fiscal cycle a little bit better,” Boyum said. “Right now they have to pay July 1st, and that’s right there in the middle of two months of summer time when things are slow.”
He also suggested eliminating license classifications such as Classes D, E and F. As passed, the amendment refers to these in defining the underage permit but then does not relate the new categories, such as bars, pubs and special event venues, to the lettered classifications.
“We’ll have to do a complete license overhaul,” Smith told the council. “That’s not just going to be in the section regarding licenses. There are also multiple revisions that will need to be done.”
Councilman Derek Duke had seconded Boyum’s motion for the ordinance, and it passed 4-0, as did all other motions Tuesday evening, with Councilman Sam Lee Jones absent.
“I believe that this version is the best compromise of all of the things that we’ve done,” Mayor Jonathan McCollar said after the meeting. “So, I’m fairly comfortable, but I’m also of the mindset that after implementation we examine it, and if we see that it’s not the best fit that we go back and tweak it to try to make it a better fit for our city.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.