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Mayor’s alcohol license application withdrawn
McCollar says timing was not right
W McCollar Jonathan 2018
Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar

One thing that did not appear on City Council’s agenda this week was an alcoholic beverages license application in the name of Mayor Jonathan McCollar. He recently withdrew the application for 39-A West Main Street.

As previously reported, he and his wife, Adrianne McCollar, plan to operate an event venue there called Peachtree on Main. But at least for now, it will not be licensed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages. After filing the application Feb. 12, Mayor McCollar said in mid-March that they hoped to open the business this week. But the application, like all new alcohol licenses, would have required City Council approval, and it did not appear on the agendas for meetings through March and into April.

“I withdrew it, and the reason I decided to withdraw that is because I didn’t think it was good timing for the city to have to go through this process,” McCollar said last week. “So at this time I just felt it was best to withdraw it and just really focus on the needs of the city.”

He mentioned the city’s budget process and the hiring of a city manager among decisions requiring his and the City Council’s attention. He was asked about the business license in the context of an interview about the items that appeared on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

“That particular application is not a make-or-break for the business, so we felt that it neither enhanced nor took away anything from the business,” the mayor said.

So he had asked city staff members not to push the application forward to a decision.

“And to be honest with you, applying for it kind of took away what the purpose of it was, because people were thinking that it was a bar, and if there’s anybody that’s far from a bar owner, it’s probably me, because I don’t even drink,” McCollar said. “It was never that type of facility. It was always a facility for banquets, wedding receptions, meetings.”

Peachtree on Main will still welcome these, and birthday parties and similar events, he said.

“We’re just really excited about being able to provide a service to Statesboro that’s going to be able to get more people into our downtown area,” McCollar said.

 

Faced obstacles

The application never came before City Council for public discussion. But council members said they were hearing concerns from constituents, including some who thought the business would be a bar.

“The mayor had asked me and I had advised him not to do it,” said District 5 Councilman Derek Duke. “It would be perceived as just that, whether it was or not, and if anything bad had happened, it would have been the mayor’s problem.”

Duke said he also heard from police who thought the mayor holding an alcohol license would be illegal.

“We didn’t feel like it would work legally under the framework that we are guided by as public officials,” Duke said. “So we were pleased that he decided to withdraw it.”

A paragraph of Section 6-7 in the city’s Alcoholic Beverages ordinance states: “Interests of public employees and officials; prohibited. No license shall be granted to any city, state or federal employee or official whose duties include the regulation or policing of alcoholic beverages or licenses or any tax-collecting activity.”

City Attorney Cain Smith declined to answer Thursday on whether this would have applied to the mayor. Smith said he does not comment on individual applications.

 

Caterers and hosts

But in response to general questions, he had confirmed that an alcoholic beverages license is not required to rent a building to private hosts who then hold an event such as a wedding reception and serve free drinks to their guests.

A city-licensed caterer who obtains city and state catered-event permits can also provide drinks free to guests at a rented location that does not have a license. This remains legal as long as the location’s business owner does not profit from the sale of drinks, Smith said.

“The way that caterers work is that you can’t have any point of sale,” Smith said. “The host has to pay for all of the alcohol up-front under state law.”

He referred to the Statesboro ordinance’s definition of a catered event, which references Georgia law.

 

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