Statesboro's new fee levels for alcoholic beverage licenses represent an attempt to match the prices paid by license holders to the city's costs for policing different types of establishments: restaurants, bars, pubs and so forth.
After adopting a long-proposed ordinance that included new license categories Oct. 1, City Council, by another 5-0 vote, approved the fee schedule Tuesday evening.
City Attorney Cain Smith started developing the new policing-based fee structure with Statesboro Police Department officials a year ago.
"We did the most revenue-neutral solution we could," Smith told the mayor and council Tuesday.
He suggested that it remains a "pilot" effort and that the fees can can be revised if the predictions of the law enforcement resources required for a a type of establishment turn out to be wrong.
But as of now, a license for a pub, defined below, costs $5,600 a year. A license for either a bar, or a slightly different category of business called a bar with a kitchen, will go for $4,300 annually. But a restaurant, which unlike a bar can regularly admit patrons under 21 years of age but still not serve them alcohol, can be licensed for $2,800 a year.
Other license fees are $2,500 for a for-profit event venue; $750 for a low-volume license, such as for a hair salon that serves patrons wine; and $1,750 for "package" sales, in other words for stores that sell beer and wine for off-premises consumption.
Previously, the city of Statesboro charged different license fees for different kinds of alcoholic beverages, differentiating between licenses for beer and those for wine sold in stores and among beer, wine and distilled spirits served for on-premises consumption.
Now the city has eliminated the distinction among beverage types, except that Statesboro still does not permit any package sales of whiskey or other distilled spirits for off-premises consumption.
City officials have been in on- and off-again discussion leading up to this move for more than a year and a half. This started with suggestions for how patrons younger than the minimum legal drinking age of 21 could be admitted to places that serve alcohol for live music and art performances, as provided under state law.
After input from restaurant and bar owners early in 2018 led to two competing options being recommended by the city's Alcohol Advisory Board, District 1 Council Phil Boyum proposed a category-based system as a third way. A modified version of his proposal was eventually adopted.
Tuesday, Boyum asked why the low-volume license fee was being set as high as $750.
"This seems a pretty high number, considering the low volume," he said.
Smith noted that the $1,000 worth of alcoholic beverages allowed to a low-volume licensee each month is in terms of wholesale deliveries, totalling up to $12,000 in purchases each year. But he added that the council could change any of the fees.
Boyum said the idea of the low-volume license was for a hair salon to be able to serve patrons a drink with a haircut or for a coffee shop to offer a couple of local beers from a small fridge. He mentioned places that offer massages with a glass of champagne as another example.
After Boyum suggested reducing the low-volume license cost to $400 or $500, District 3 Councilman Jeff Yawn expressed a different viewpoint.
"You're seeing it from the consumer's perspective, while I'm seeing it compared to the others," Yawn said to Boyum, and noted that the $750 fee would amount to about $62 a month.
"I think that's very reasonable, personally, and I think if we're going to allow someone the privilege of serving alcohol in any capacity, they've got to put some skin in the game," Yawn said.
They agreed to leave the low-volume fee at $750.
However, they agreed to a change based on another suggestion of Boyum's, adding a $1,250 fee for event venues owned by 501c3 nonprofit organizations. This is half the cost of the license for for-profit venues. The city had already allowed the Averitt Center for the Arts to hold up to six events a year where alcohol is served.
Yawn made the motion, seconded by Boyum, to adopt the fees with the addition of the "501c3" provision.
A bar, as defined in Statesboro's ordinance, must not admit patrons under age 21. Neither, on ordinary days, may a "bar with kitchen," which is licensed as such and fully equipped to serve food. But only a "bar with kitchen" can obtain an "underage permit," to admit 18-20-year-olds for a live musical performance or performing arts presentation for which tickets are sold in advance.
For events with underage permits, bars with kitchens are required to use ID scanners for verifying ages, to place wristbands on patrons 21 and up, and to serve alcoholic beverages in colored plastic cups, keeping these away from underage patrons.
What's a pub?
A pub is defined as a place that can allow patrons 18-20, but not those under 18, to remain on its premises past 10 p.m. without a parent or guardian during live music concerts, provided that its kitchen remains open offering "the full or substantial menu."
Restaurants have no age restrictions for admission but are prohibited from allowing patrons under age 21 to sit in "alcohol dispensing station" areas without their parent or guardian.
License renewal reset
After licenses were issued on a special six-month basis effective last July 1, the new ordinance also resets the effective date for alcohol license renewals to Jan. 1.
The approved resolution also temporarily waives late fees, which would otherwise be imposed for license renewals not paid by Nov. 1 , until Dec. 1. However, the city would still impose one $200 late fee after Dec. 1.
Without the fee waiver, any applicants for renewal who failed to filed until December would have been assessed a $200 late fee on Nov. 1 and another $200 on Dec. 1, Smith said.
Any license holders who do not apply to renew before the end of December would see their licenses expire.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.