At its last regular meeting in January, Statesboro City Council changed one aspect of the city’s alcohol law, on how surveyors measure and record the 100-yard minimum distance between a place that serves or sells alcohol and a church, school or alcohol treatment center.
The amendment, proposed by the city’s planning and development staff, also deleted a 100-yard requirement between the wall of any drinking establishment and the property line of any home in a single-family residential district.
But several other changes, vetted by the city attorney and recommended by the Alcohol Advisory Board, were only given a first reading Jan. 17, and await action at another meeting. These include proposals to shorten the lookback period for ordinance violation penalties by license holders from five years to three, to extend the lookback for criminal convictions on new license applicants to comply with state law, and to redefine “catered event” for permit purposes.
The council’s first meeting of February will begin 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
The Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance already required a 100-yard separation between bars and restaurants that serve alcohol and any existing church, school building, educational building on a college campus, or alcohol treatment center. But the overhauled ordinance as adopted last spring included more than one set of endpoints for the measurements.
For treatment centers, the prescribed straight-line distance was from the nearest point on any wall of the place selling alcohol to the treatment center’s property line. But for churches and school buildings, the required 100 yards was between the nearest walls of the alcohol establishment and the other building.
“After we started implementing this new ordinance, surveyors started having a lot of questions and concerns,” Planning and Development Director Frank Neal told the council. “We think we’ve simplified that method now by designating a specific location for the measurement to start, that being the front door of a business.”
So, the amendment refers to the “front door/primary entrance” of each building as the spot for the measurements to start and end for places that serve alcohol to drink on-premises.
The amendment, adopted Jan. 17, still requires a Georgia-registered surveyor to certify the distances. But it replaces the 2016 requirement for a plat showing the distances with a requirement for a sketch. A plat is a more work-intensive document for which surveyors charge more, Neal told the council.
“That’s really the cost-savings to the property owner, to where they’re not going out there and having to find the four corners of every property that’s being impacted,” he said.
For stores that sell for off-premises consumption, the ordinance defers to a section of state law, and to Georgia Department of Revenue regulations, which Neal said require a property-line measurement. The ordinance already contained an exception allowing grocery stores that sell beer and wine within 100 yards of any college campus, which reflects an exception in state law. To qualify, a grocery store must have at least 10,000 square feet of floor space, at least 85 percent devoted to nonalcoholic items.
The requirement for a minimum 100 yards between an alcohol establishment and any private home in a single-family residential zone was removed “to clarify that as well,” Neal said.
After a first reading Jan. 3, this amendment was unanimously approved Jan. 17.
A proposed amendment that City Attorney Cain Smith described as bringing Statesboro’s alcohol licensing requirements into compliance with state regulations was then given a first reading.
“The situation as it stands now allows for an issuance of a license at the city level, but then once they get to Atlanta, the state will kick it out,” Smith told the council. “So, what I’ve done with this is to revise and add in language so that the minimum requirements, at least, fit the state requirements, because we can have more strict licensure requirements than the state but we cannot have more lenient licensure requirements.”
The council had approved a license in September for Justin A. Clements, 25, to operate a bar called The Library, despite Clements having pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to a customer under age 21 at a different business on Feb. 13, 2015. The council heard about this misdemeanor conviction during its first hearing to grant a license under the new alcohol ordinance, which took effect July 1.
But Clements never picked up the city license, apparently because he was not issued a state license, city officials said later.
Both a local and a state license, issued by the Department of Revenue, are required to sell alcoholic beverages. State regulations prohibit licenses for applicants who have been convicted in the last 10 years of any felony, or in the last five years of any misdemeanor related to the sale of alcohol, prostitution, gambling or certain major driving offenses.
So, the proposed amendment incorporates the state lookbacks of five and 10 years for criminal convictions by alcohol license applicants. Someone who had such a conviction would not meet basic requirements and could be denied a license without a council hearing.
The city’s lookback for administrative penalties against licensed businesses for violations by employees is a different matter. While acting on alcohol license suspensions for several stores in December and restaurants and bars in January, several council members and Mayor Jan Moore said that a five-year lookback was excessive.
In fact, in the one case in which a violation more than three years old was considered, the Statesboro Police Department gave less weight to the older violations in its consent agreement with the licensee.
But after officials realized that a five-year lookback was authorized, proposed Ordinance 2017-03 would reduce the administrative lookback to three years.
As read Jan. 17, proposed Ordinance 2017-04 would alter the definition of catered events for which a specific alcohol permit is required, from those where the general public is not admitted to events where the public “may be admitted.” In either case, these are occasions such as wedding receptions, parties and sporting events where licensed caterers supply the drinks.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.