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Springfield ponders effects of 'yes' vote on referendum
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The Springfield City Council continued working on an ordinance for liquor by the drink sales in the city in the event that the upcoming referendum passes to allow sales inside the city limits.

Council members discussed ways to word the ordinance to ensure that only restaurants will be allowed within the city, and no bars or nightclubs would be able to open in the city.

Officials were using the ordinance that Statesboro currently has in place as a beginning point for the discussion. The Statesboro ordinance included occupancy load restrictions that the council chose to remove for the ordinance for Springfield.

“The thing is this is going to be a restaurant,” Mayor Barton Alderman said. “People are going to be sitting at tables, people won’t be standing around.”

Police Chief Paul Wynn said even if a restaurant has a bar area he does not foresee a problem with occupancy.

“I’ve never been to a bar where people are sitting on top of each other’s laps,” he said.

Wynn said he felt this could be addressed with state fire and safety codes.

City Manager Brett Bennett said any restaurant selling liquor or not would have to meet the fire code and would know the occupancy limit for the establishment.

Council member Jeff Ambrose said the state fire code will tell every restaurant the number of people allowed in the building.

“Any decent restaurant is not going to let you pile up anyway,” Wynn said. “They’re going to make you wait.”

The draft ordinance included wording to allow a dance floor and live music.

Alderman said there has been trouble at an restaurant in Savannah for allowing live entertainment and making the establishment a bar.

Bennett said the problem the establishment had was charging a cover for admission, and then becoming more of a lounge instead of a restaurant.

Councilman Charles Hinely said the city does not want any bars or lounges, just restaurants.

Kieffer said he didn’t like the idea of allowing live entertainment or dancing.

“I think that defeats what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Ambrose suggested changing the ordinance to prohibit live entertainment or dancing.

“I don’t want to leave any doubt in anybody’s mind that we’re going to allow anything but a restaurant,” Kieffer said.

Bennett told the council that by prohibiting live entertainment, they would prohibit things that currently occur at Kelly’s Tavern, which has singing on the deck.

Ambrose said the council had to be careful “especially with the word dancing.”

Councilman Kenny Usher suggested not allowing dancing, but allowing live entertainment. Ambrose said live entertainment is a broad description.

Alderman said there are instances that the council would not necessarily want to prohibit.

“You could have a super fancy restaurant with a strolling violinist,” he said.

Kieffer said live entertainment could “go the other way.”

Hinely asked if Outback, Longhorn or similar restaurants have live entertainment.

“We’ll be kicking Kelly’s in the butt,” Ambrose said.

Kieffer said allowing dancing makes the ordinance sound like dance clubs would be allowed. He asked how the current ordinance for beer and wine addresses what Kelly’s currently does. City Clerk Gaye Paquet said it is not covered under the current ordinance.

Kieffer said the council should keep the ordinance simple to address residents’ concerns.

“The only think I have heard, and that’s what we’ve all said is that we would be comfortable possibly with a restaurant with a pouring license, and that’s all I would agree to personally,” he said.

Wynn said there have not been any complaints about the entertainment at Kelly’s.

“I understand where you’re going with this entertainment deal,” Wynn said. “What I really want you to look at is this bar issue. If there is any possible way to stay away from a bar-club scene, that’s what I would recommend.”

Bennett said he felt the council could approve an entertainment setting in a restaurant where a restaurant owner would come and ask permission to have bands or other entertainment in a specific area of the restaurant.

“Personally, I don’t see a problem with what’s going on at Kelly’s,” Bennett said. “I don’t think we want to tell them they can’t do something when they’ve been running a good business.”

Wynn brought up a concern that the ordinance allows restaurants to charge a cover or admission charge.

The council agreed that no restaurant would be allowed to charge for admission, minimum charge or cover charge.

The council decided to prohibit banning dancing on the premises of restaurants.