City approves alcohol ordinance

Published 12:00 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — The Americus Mayor and City Council, during the regular monthly meeting held Thursday, adopted its new alcohol beverage license, which has been under study and revision for over a year. The new ordinance resembles the old one, with a few exceptions: the new deadline for alcohol sales is 12:30 a.m. and everyone must be out of the business and doors locked at 1 a.m.; the license review board will be appointed by the mayor and council and will hear the majority of the appeals from license holders; server and clerk permits are required for everyone that sells alcohol beverages on the premise or by the package; training is required for all servers with an independent vendor. The social hosting part of the ordinance creates liability for anyone that be proven to have provided alcohol to underage persons.
One of the people who had requested to address the mayor and council was Bo Musselwhite, who had spoken at a previous meeting in defense of a downtown bar, Dillenger’s, which was placed on a 90-day probationary period by the city at the Feb. 25 meeting. The bar has not reopened since the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants there on Feb. 28, along with several other bars around south and central Georgia belonging to owner, Will Britt of Statesboro.
On Thursday, Musselwhite, reading from a prepared statement, took issue with the City Manager Steve Kennedy, and the alcohol beverage license ordinance. He lamented the closings of L.B.’s Lounge and Dillenger’s, both downtown bars frequented by college-age individuals. Both establishments, prior to closing, had been visited by police on numerous occasions for noise and fights in the area, and underage sales and consumption.
Musselwhite said, “The business [Dillinger’s] didn’t want to reopen after the IRS was looking into them due to so many false perceptions brought against them all other restaurants they own have opened back up in other towns except Americus.”
That may or may not be because of the 90-day probation period during which the business can sell no alcohol. Calls to the bar by the newspaper have been unsuccessful. Musselwhite said all the other bars visited by the feds have since reopened.
Musselwhite complained about Kennedy moving the closing time, a move which he believes will result in further closures of downtown businesses. He also objected to the ordinance’s section which requires for businesses, restaurants and convenience stores that serve or sell alcohol to pay $50 to train their employees, saying that it is too expensive.
“I completely understand the reasoning behind this ordinance and it’s to deter bars from coming to Americus but if you are trying to do this why is the city hosting a beer festival, it seems a little counterproductive. Let’s be realistic here College students want to have a good time and they come downtown to do so … “ Musselwhite said, and suggested that the city provide a grant to the Windsor Hotel for installation of double-pane storm windows to block out noise from the street. Windsor owner, Sharad Patel had come before the mayor and council at a previous meeting informing them that many of his hotel guests have complained about noise in the parking lots and on the streets in downtown from bar patrons, not only from Dillinger’s but from also from Urban Lounge on Jackson Street.
Musselwhite continued, objecting to the city’s recent decision to move its insurance coverage from an Americus firm to a Kennesaw firm.
After Musselwhite’s speech, Mayor Barry Blount corrected Musselwhite, informing him that the change in closing time was not Kennedy’s idea, but his. “The alcohol ordinance has been ready for months for business owners to see and no one has objected to it,” Blount said.
When it was time to vote on the new alcohol beverage license ordinance, the motion for approval was offered by Lou Chase and seconded by Carla Cook. Council member Daryl Dowdell asked for some clarification on moving the closing time. “What will it do for the city?” Kennedy replied, “It gets  businesses and patrons out an hour earlier; it provides for a quieter environment in the downtown area.” The city manager also mentioned “entertainment zones” which are in the ordinance where the city will allow later closings in certain areas.
Dowdell commented that he’s had “several calls” from constituents and business owners who don’t like the time change.
When the vote was taken, Dowdell voted no while Chase, Cook, Shirley Green Reese, Nelson Brown and Juanita Wilson voted yes to approve the ordinance.
Another citizen asking to speak was Clifford Morgan who lives on Winn Street. He told the mayor and council that noise is a big problem in his neighborhood and said the police department is not riding through often enough. Kennedy picked up a sheaf of paper over one-inch thick which he said were reports of when Americus Police officers were patrolling Morgan’s neighborhood.
Morgan also complained of loud music coming from TK’s, on Bay Street, on weekends. “If you ride by Pat’s Place [on South Lee Street], you don’t hear that,” he said. He also said people sit in their cars in TK’s parking lot playing loud music in their cars. “Somebody needs to do something,” he said.
In other business, the council did the following.
• Approved a resolution for the condemnation of drainage easements and rights-of-way easements for the 2014 CDBG Street, Flood, and Drainage project.
• Approved a budget of $75,000 for the painting project at City Hall.
• Approved an alcohol license for the sale of beer and wine off premises for Zippy Food, 602 W. Forsyth St., contingent upon final inspection of working cameras.
• Heard Mike Cheokas present a proclamation form the state House of Representatives honoring former council member Walton Grant, who served for 25 years on council. The proclamation was presented to Grant’s widow, Brenda Grant.
• The mayor administered the oath of office to Kevin Kwashnak who has been appointed to the Theater Center and Cultural Authority, and to Patsy Knotts, who has been appointed to the Library Board.
• Heard a brief update from Doug Goodin of the Americus Theater and Cultural Authority.
• Heard from Allison Slocum of River Valley Regional Commission on the city’s comprehensive plan.