Sunday drink could be flowing in Statesboro in time for the holiday season.
Statesboro City Council approved Tuesday a first reading to amend the city’s alcohol ordinance, which would allow the Sunday sale of alcohol in establishments throughout the city as early as December 11.
The amended ordinance, which will have to be agreed upon again in council’s next meeting to become law, was approved one week after referendums calling for Sunday alcohol sales passed in Statesboro and Bulloch County.
The referenda allow for Sunday sales in grocery and convenience stores, as well as restaurants, between the hours of 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
If the news was not positive enough for local restaurateurs, changes to the ordinance also address a collection of grievances about the existing law — that it is overreaching, convoluted and contradictory — recently expressed to officials by business owners, council said.
“[The new ordinance] is cleaner, it’s a little crisper and it makes more sense,” said Councilman Will Britt. “It eliminates some of the laws that never should have been in there to start with.”
“I do think it is a much cleaner ordinance than the old one,” Councilman Travis Chance said. “It takes out a lot of ambiguous language and overlapping rules.”
An effort to rework the existing ordinance began in August, when council agreed to make changes in response to the issues of local owners.
The result: a simpler and less restrictive ordinance, according to City Manager Frank Parker.
“It is a more understandable, less restrictive and more enforceable ordinance,” he said. “On the [existing] ordinance, there are limits on how you can serve, what kind of container you can use and other things. It all boils down to: our policeman do not need to be babysitters worrying about how many people are on the dance floor or whether a drink is being served in a container that doesn’t have a handle. They need to be out catching bad guys.”
Parker said the new ordinance also has no restrictions on happy hour times or pricing — except that alcohol has to be sold for more money than was used to purchase it by the distributor.
The one major change proposed for the new alcohol law would require Statesboro restaurants divide into two categories.
One classification of restaurants would operate under the same rules currently in place — that for every dollar of alcohol sold, a dollar of food must also be sold. Restaurants in that category would be allowed to sale alcohol on Sundays.
A second classification for “sports/recreational restaurants,” would allow businesses to operate only Monday through Saturday, but count all generated revenue — cover charge, entertainment charge, bowling revenue, pool hall monies, etc. — towards food in its 50/50 food-to-alcohol split, Parker said.
Once passed, all restaurants interested in selling alcohol on Sundays will have to provide an additional fee for their existing licenses to account for the extra day.
But before a December 6 meeting wherein the group will vote on a second reading to adopt the new ordinance, Council will host a work session/public hearing to finalize all details of the new law and invite public comment about any proposed changes.
The evening meeting will be scheduled for Tuesday, November 29, according to Councilman John Riggs.
“I think there will still be plenty of modifications made before it’s over,” Riggs said. “Most people have not yet given their input.”
“I don’t know that I agree with [the ordinance] wholeheartedly,” Chance said. “In between now and the next time we meet, I will take the time to sit down and draw out what I feel needs strengthened or taken out.”
In other business Tuesday, council chose not to go along with a plan that would have created a new staff position with the City of Statesboro.
Despite an idea that surfaced to create a ‘construction projects director’ job to manage and oversee a multitude of development projects forecasted in Statesboro’s future, “there will be no change in personnel for the City of Statesboro,” according to Chance.
Councilmen also awarded a contract to Preferred Site Construction, LLC in the amount of $78,634.75 (2007 SPLOST funds) to construct a new parking lot behind City Campus, approved a motion to hire TransformHealthRX to provide an on-site health clinic for city employees, and authorized the city’s human resources department to hire one of two final candidates in the search for a new city attorney.
City Council’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, December 6.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454