Statesboro City Council enters 2015 with five businesses scheduled for hearings Tuesday on allegations that they violated the Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance by selling beer or wine to customers under age 21.
All are stores that sell beverages for off-premises consumption. The hearings are scheduled as part of the regular 9 a.m. council meeting.
With letters from the city dated Dec. 15, two license holders, Mabrook Hallat of the Fast and Easy at 118 Lanier Drive and Pallavi Patel of Sparkers at 799 Northside Drive W., were notified to answer for alleged second violations at those stores.
Three other licensees, Patrick Jones of Flash Foods No. 251 at 12440 U.S. Highway 301 S.; Rameshchandra R. Patel of Sunny Food Mart at 725 S. Main St.; and Chaudhry S. Pervez of Tobacco and More at 420 S. Main St. were notified of alleged first violations.
At each store, the city alleges, the licensee or employees furnished alcohol to an underage person "on or about" Dec. 3, the same day that the Statesboro Police Department announced a new round of compliance checks. Although any individual citations go to Municipal Court for trial, business owners are summoned for administrative license hearings before the council.
Since resuming alcoholic beverage license hearings last fall after a two-year gap, the council has heard 18 prior to these five.
On Oct. 7, the city issued warnings to six restaurants for first-time violations of serving alcohol to underage customers.
On Nov. 4, the council issued three-day suspensions to Food World on Fair Road and the Time Saver at 301 N. Main St. for having two violations.
At that time, 10 other businesses, among them the Sparkers and the Fast and Easy now being brought back on new allegations, were issued warnings for first violations. The other businesses warned included seven stores and a nightclub.
The Aug. 28 beating death of Georgia Southern University student Michael Gatto, 18, of Cumming, at the since-closed Rude Rudy's club in University Plaza, focused new attention on Statesboro's city alcohol law and its enforcement in 2014.
Police charged Grant James Spencer, 20, of Olympic Boulevard, a Rude Rudy's bouncer said to be off-duty at the time of his alleged attack on Gatto, with aggravated battery and murder during the commission of a felony, and he remains in jail awaiting trial.
A report in November by city officials on gaps in Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance enforcement noted that the city failed to bring licensees to administrative hearings for more than 75 alleged violations from July 2011 through August 2013.
Changes in city personnel and an extensive revision in the ordinance in December 2011, when references to an already-abandoned Alcohol Control Board and other provisions were removed, contributed to the lapse, according to the report.
Storm, election fees
Also on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting are public hearings on the establishment of a stormwater utility and a user fee to support it, followed by consideration of council motions to approve these.
Because 2015 is a city election year, the council is also slated to set candidate qualifying fees. The election will be Nov. 3 for the council seats in Districts 2, 3 and 5, currently held by Gary Lewis, Will Britt and Travis Chance, respectively.
One thing not slated for Tuesday is discussion of the proposed new alcohol ordinance. Another work session on that has instead been proposed for later this month.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.