New this summer, alcoholic beverages are permitted in open cups of a certain size, outdoors but not in motor vehicles, in a defined area of downtown Statesboro, within certain hours. Of course this is for people of legal drinking age, 21 or older.
Also in effect, since City Council approved all three ordinance changes June 16, are a change allowing elected officials to hold alcoholic beverages licenses and a new provision for permits for special events where alcohol is served.
“The ordinances were effective immediately,” City Manager Charles Penny replied in an email Wednesday. “We have not had any activity since the adoption of the ordinances.”
Although the city officials wouldn’t necessarily know if a few people have walked outside downtown sipping a beverage, the city had received no reports of related problems. Police Chief Mike Broadhead said the same thing Monday. Meanwhile, the city had received no applications related to the other two ordinance changes.
“I have seen nothing regarding applications or other actions as a result of any ordinance passage,” City Attorney Cain Smith also replied.
Of course, the changes took effect while large public gatherings are still discouraged and sit-down restaurant traffic remains limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open cup zone
Drinks are allowed in paper and plastic ups, up to but no larger than 20 ounces, in the area that follows. It is bounded on the north by Courtland Street, Simmons Way and Proctor Street; on the east by Mulberry Street; on the west by Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; and on the south by Bulloch Street between MLK Drive and College Street, but then after turning north along College Street, the remainder of the southern boundary is on Cherry Street between College and Mulberry.
Originally a slightly smaller area had been proposed, but it was extended in some ways, particularly to include the West District development.
Beverages in cups do not have to be purchased at bars or restaurants downtown to be legal for pedestrians on streets and sidewalks or in park spaces in the designated area. But there is a paragraph in the ordinance allowing businesses with alcoholic beverage licenses in this area to
“dispense no more than one alcoholic beverage per person 21 years of age or older” in paper or plastic cups of legal size.
The new city law also prohibits any one person from removing more than one alcoholic beverage in a cup from licensed premises. Beverages in open cans, open bottles and other open glass containers remain prohibited in outdoor public spaces.
There are also prohibited hours for possessing open drinks in the zone, related to the legal hours for establishments to serve alcohol. This was a point of brief discussion among City Council members during the June 16 meeting.
Under previously existing parts of the alcohol ordinance, restaurants, bars and pubs are allowed to serve alcoholic beverages from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m. the following day, Monday through Saturday, including until 1 a.m. Sunday. Managers then have 45 minutes to clear patrons from their establishments.
So, City Council ended up setting 1:45 a.m. as the latest time to possess a cupped beverage outdoors in the permitted area. From then until 7 a.m. the drinks in cups are prohibited. Open alcoholic drinks inside motor vehicles are prohibited under Georgia law.
Council approved the open container provision on a 3-2 vote, after District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers made the motion, District 3’s Venus Mack seconded and District 5’s Shari Barr joined in voting “yes.” District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum and District 4’s John Riggs voted “no.”
Boyum had suggested an earlier stopping time, saying, “Again, we’re trying to encourage more residents downtown, and … I don’t think you want people running through your neighborhood with beer at 1:45 in the morning.”
The final reading of the change allowing elected officials to obtain alcoholic beverage licenses also passed 3-2, with Boyum and Riggs again casting the “nay” votes. Previously, not just the city’s elected officials, but county, state and federal officials were banned from obtaining Statesboro licenses.
Non-elected government employees involved in regulating and taxing alcoholic beverages are still prohibited from getting city licenses to sell the stuff.
On the new provisions for temporary special events permits, the final vote was 4-1, with Riggs alone opposed.
These permits are for locations not otherwise licensed to serve alcohol, and a special state permit is also required. Only a few cities in Georgia allow this at all, and Statesboro previously limited the permits to licensed caterers.
The new wording states: “For events with less than 200 total people present any business holding an occupational tax certificate in a Bulloch County jurisdiction may apply. For events with more than 200 total attendees present only businesses holding a City issued catering license may apply.”
The deadline to apply for a permit was shortened to 21 days before an event, from the previous 45 days.
Separately, the council adopted fees for these permits as part of the city’s annual schedule of fees, rates and fines.