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Chamber urges Council to fix alcohol ordinance
Business group wants wants accountability for local bars
Chamber Commerce logo color

         Our community suffered a tragedy in August with the unexpected death of Georgia Southern student Michael Gatto. His untimely death has brought to light what appears to be a significant problem with the provision of alcohol to minors in our community as well as an unacceptable level of alcohol-related violence and illness. We urge our Mayor and City Council to immediately undertake deliberate and meaningful review of the city's alcohol ordinance over the next few weeks. We hope they can determine what elements, if any, are contributing to the serious situation that we as a community are facing.
         We are also asking the citizens of Statesboro and Bulloch County to become engaged in this process. As a community, we need to put first and foremost the safety of our young people, and require enforcement from our public safety officers. The support of our elected officials of this type ordinance will be necessary to accomplish this goal.
         The Chamber of Commerce is charged with supporting a business environment that protects and nurtures economic viability for our law-abiding members. The ordinance should identify and define types of establishments that sell alcohol, i.e., retail package, restaurants and bars. With targeted ordinances for each entity which secures a license, we can set clear expectations and encourage better protection of their patrons as well as our citizens. Ideally, an ordinance of this type should follow best practices as identified by other communities facing similar objectives, such as Athens, Georgia, which includes training and credentialing of servers, dedicated law enforcement and a strong violation schedule. To this end, the eager participation of our business members in the hospitality and retail industries is strongly encouraged.
         Ordinance changes that prevent hazardous environments are long overdue. We applaud the recent efforts of our community leaders to protect our citizens, their families and local businesses from facing unruly and intimidating alcohol offenders. It is time to identify bars as they are and for our City Council to create specific stipulations in regulating their existence. With regular enforcement and punishments levied for offenders, we should be steps closer to a safer Statesboro.

Phyllis H. Thompson, president
on behalf of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

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