City Mulls Alcohol; Residents Speak Out
Approximately 300 people filled the council chambers, lined the hall, filled the lobby and overflowed into an additional room to let the Douglasville City Council members know how they feel about changing the City's alcohol laws.
Three proposed changes to Douglasville's alcohol laws were on the agenda and attracted a capacity crowd to last night's City Council work session meeting. The alcohol agenda items were:
- Allow restaurants to extend pouring hours from midnight on Saturday to 2 a.m. on Sunday.
- Change food-to-alcohol percentage ratios from 60/40 to 51/49 in restaurants holding Sunday alcohol permits.
- Allow residents to vote on Sunday sales on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Council's first order of business was to unanimously approve extended pouring hours during Saturday's Cinco de Mayo holiday, allowing restaurants to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. Sunday morning. The council passed the same one-time law for St. Patrick's Day last month. Both holidays fell on a Saturday this year. The Council took about five minutes to conduct the vote during a specially-called meeting.
Before residents were allowed to speak during the work session portion of the meeting, Mayor Harvey Persons pointed out that no decisions would be made Thursday night; the meeting was for discussion only. The Council will vote on Monday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m. Persons said the Council is not required to listen to public comments regarding these issues but they would enable the Council to make better decisions on Monday.
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Yockey began by clarifying what he said was some bad information on the street regarding what the Council is trying to accomplish with the new alcohol measures. He said it was unfair to say that any of Douglasville's restaurants could be considered bars.
"This does not open the door to businesses like strip clubs to open in our fine city," he said. "We'll be able to compete with surrounding cities. The changes are not just for a few restaurants, they're for our new $14 million conference center. Old, outdated regulations are standing in the way."
He said restaurants will be able to pour alcohol until 2 a.m. on Sunday, a change from the originally proposed 2:55 a.m. time, which would have matched the County's law.
"We listened to the citizens, took their advice, and we changed it," he said.
Residents were allowed to speak for an hour on each agenda item, 30 minutes were allowed for those in favor of the new alcohol measures and 30 minutes for those speaking against. Each resident was allowed five minutes to speak.
Ten people spoke who were opposed to extending pouring hours and seven spoke in favor. Seven residents spoke out against changing the food-to-alcohol ratio and one spoke out in favor of the proposed change, former Douglasville City Councilman Terry Miller.
Three residents spoke against putting Sunday alcohol sales on a Nov. 6 ballot. Another three residents let the Council know they are in favor of allowing residents the opportunity to vote, even though they are not necessarily for allowing Sunday sales.
Councilwoman LaShun Burr-Danley agreed with those in favor of allowing residents to vote on a Sunday sales referendum.
"I was born in 1966 and my forefathers did not have the opportunity to vote," she said. "I do believe in people having the right to decide. I will not vote for Sunday sales but I think people should have the right to decide."