Statesboro City Council is slated to hear first readings of three proposed Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance changes Tuesday, including one that would allow customers of legal drinking age to carry open beverages in cups while walking in downtown Statesboro.
The regular meeting at City Hall, still subject to limited, distanced seating, will be held at 5:30 p.m., after a 4 p.m. work session next door at Joe Brannen Hall.
Council’s majority approval of a first reading, which may occur Tuesday, and then at a later meeting of a second reading is required for any of the changes to become city law. When the three proposals were presented as general ideas during the May 5 meeting, the pedestrian open container exemption for downtown was the only one that received a unanimous 5-0 vote directing City Attorney Cain Smith to draft the change.
But council members approved 4-1 for Smith to proceed with eliminating a part of the city ordinance that prohibits all elected officials involved in alcohol licensing and taxation from holding an alcoholic beverages license in Statesboro.
Also May 5, the council split 3-2 in instructing Smith to draft a change in Statesboro’s rules for issuing temporary permits for for-profit special events where alcoholic beverages are served. The proposal would reduce the deadline for applying from 45 days 21 days before an event. Originally, the proposal would also have allowed anyone who qualifies for a state-issued temporary events permit – not just city-licensed caterers as Statesboro currently requires – to get a city permit.
As the mayor and council go into this week’s meeting, they have received a draft for the open container exemption that designates a downtown area “bounded on the north by Courtland Street, on the west by Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, on the south by Cherry Street, and on the east by Mulberry Street.”
Businesses licensed to sell alcohol for on-premises consumption in this area could serve drinks in a paper or plastic cup, holding 16 ounces or less, “for removal from the premises.” Customers age 21 or older could then possess one cup, and no more than one each, “on the streets, sidewalks or other public places within the area described.”
Open bottles and other glass containers or cans of alcoholic beverages would still be prohibited.
During the May 5 meeting, District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum made the motion to draft this change, and District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack seconded. It was actually the second of the three proposed changes presented.
Letting officials sell beverages
The first was a proposal to eliminate Statesboro’s ban on officials obtaining licenses to operate businesses that sell or serve alcohol.
Currently, a subsection in the city Code of Ordinances states: “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.”
Mayor Jonathan McCollar, during the May 5 discussion, noted that this is not limited to city officials or even to Statesboro residents who happen to be officials. He used the example of a well-known Statesboro restaurant owner to emphasize that no one could keep an alcohol license here and serve in elected office.
“If (he) wanted to run to be a county commissioner but his license is held by the city of Statesboro, he can’t run to be a county commissioner, he can’t run to be a state representative, he can’t run for the U.S. Congress, he can’t run to be a state senator, he can’t run,” McCollar said.
“And in my opinion, the law was written to prevent some bad things that happened in the past, but I think the result was a draconian law that’s preventing individuals from participating in the democratic process,” he continued.
During a previous work session, April 21, Councilwoman Mack had noted that she is prohibited from obtaining a license to serve glasses of wine to customers at her hair salon. This is allowed to other salon owners with a “low-volume” license.
The initial 4-1 vote May 5 to move forward with eliminating the rule against officials holding licenses came on a motion from District 2 Councilwoman Pauette Chavers seconded by Mack. District 4 Councilman John Riggs and District 5 Councilwoman Shari Barr them in voting “yes.” Boyum cast the “no” vote.
Formally, this was a motion to have Smith draft an ordinance revision, but since the subsection would be completely eliminated, there is no proposed new wording.
On the proposed loosening of restrictions on temporary special event permits, Smith’s draft for Tuesday’s meeting offers possible middle ground. Against McCollar’s suggestion that any adult should be able apply, some council members wanted to limit the permits to local people or licensees, and Boyum and Riggs voted against Mack’s motion, which was seconded by Chavers, for drafting a revision.
“Is this just for local people? Because I do agree, I don’t want people from Atlanta and Savannah or wherever coming and having events here and bringing violence to the city,” Mack said before the vote.
Highlighted in red, a section of Tuesday’s draft 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.”
This would apply to for-profit special events. There are separate rules for nonprofit organizations’ events.
During May 5 meeting, McCollar also proposed reassigning the council’s current duties to approve first-time alcohol license applications, and possibly other alcohol-related decisions, to staff members.
This proposal is not part of Tuesday’s first readings. But “alcohol ordinance and state law” is again a topic for the 4 p.m. work session, preceding the meeting. Other topics for the work session are the ordinance proposal process itself and a quarterly financial report.