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County gets to work on new alcohol ordinance
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Even as voters were casting ballots on a liquor by the drink referendum, Effingham County commissioners discussed what they wanted in an alcohol ordinance should the measure pass.

In a workshop prior to their regular meeting Tuesday, commissioners debated what a possible ordinance would include and also asked county staff not to accept applications.

“We would feel comfortable if the board voted to tell the staff not to take applications for pouring licenses until such as you get an ordinance in place,” Assistant County Attorney Eric Gotwalt said.

Interim County Administrator David Crawley said the ordinance governing pouring licenses is very comprehensive and that fees for the applications and for the permits themselves also need to be addressed.

Commissioners decided that the threshold for restaurants wanting to have pouring licenses should be getting at least 55 percent of their profits from the sale of food. The usual standard is at least 50 percent.

“We need more than that,” Commissioner Verna Phillips said.

Said Commissioner Hubert Sapp: “That pouring license is what makes them money. One beer there costs you the same as a six-pack in a store.”

Commissioners also asked for language pertaining to bars and nightclubs struck from the draft ordinance.

“Bars, lounges, nightclubs, all those need to come out,” Commissioner Reggie Loper said. “If it doesn’t concern full service restaurants, it needs to be eliminated.”

Gotwalt said they tried to make the draft ordinance over inclusive and said the food profits stipulation puts the county in a better position should it get challenged over the issuance of a license.

“Georgia views alcoholic beverage licenses as a privilege, not a right,” he said. “If someone comes to you with that challenge, you are in a stronger position.”

Commissioners also weighed the distance establishments that get a liquor pouring license must be from other buildings and certain facilities such as schools and churches. Commissioners also discussed the appeal process for licenses that are suspended or not granted.

The ordinance, which is expected to come back before the commissioners at their Feb. 19 meeting, also will set the hours of sale from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.