Residents Urge City for Change
Eleven people addressed the Douglasville City Council on Thursday night, urging changes in the City's alcohol laws, to help the local economy and attract new businesses.
Approximately 300 people attended Thursday night's City Council work session meeting, many of them in favor of changes to the City's alcohol laws.
"I support local business," read the bright green sticker that many wore to show they were in favor of extended pouring hours, until Sunday at 2 a.m.; changing the City's food-to-alcohol percentage ratio from 60/40 to 51/49; and/or allowing residents to vote on Sunday sales on the Nov. 6 ballot.
"The change in alcohol laws will be a benefit to revenue and jobs, which would have a domino effect in many areas," Jason Sparks said before the meeting began. Sparks is a Douglasville resident and owner of Motions Entertainment. "It would be good for the local economy, including the local government.
"It's important that the Council hear both sides of the argument," he said. "In today's economy downturn, from federal to local, it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs. We have to be doing everything we can. Asking for a couple of extra pouring hours is not unreasonable."
When Sparks later addressed the Council, he said, "If I want to stop at a restaurant at 1 a.m. to enjoy a beverage with a friend, I should be allowed to do so."
One resident said she thinks Douglasville's mayor has already agreed to allow Sunday sales to be on the ballot.
"Candidate (Harvey) Persons had a campaign debate in our neighborhood, in Tributary," Sharon Sparks said. "All of the candidates were asked one question, where they stood on Sunday alcohol sales. He specifically stated that he believed in letting the people decide.
"People I know are upset they might not be allowed to vote," she said. "They maybe would have voted against Sunday sales but at this point it's about the principle."
"I'm in favor anytime people have the opportunity to express their votes on an issue," Steve Barth said before the meeting. "It doesn't have to do with drinking. I want to allow people to vote on it. It's silly to have to drive to other communities to get liquor.
"Instead of spending money in other locations, we should keep it here in Douglasville," he said.
The first person to stand behind the podium and address the City Council members was Lisa Brown, a life-long Douglasville resident and single mom.
"I support (the alcohol changes) because it directly affects me, since I'm a server," she said. "Any extra hours I can get are helpful to support my family. I'm a single parent and no one supports us but me. If I don't work, I can't buy milk or school supplies."
Beverly Clements is the manager of events at The Centre at Arbor Connection.
"I am a mother, wife, sister and business person living in Douglasville," she said. "I was raised in this community at a local Baptist church. I have never been arrested for DUI, domestic violence, or any other charge, alcohol-related or not.
"As a business member, we lose business on a monthly, if not weekly basis," she said. "People are driving into other areas, spending their money in Atlanta, Carrollton, Villa Rica and elsewhere and then driving back to our community. Stopping the sales does not stop the drinking, it lengthens the transportation for people to get home."
Neil Jenkins, owner of the Irish Bred Pub, said the recession has already caused the loss of four downtown restaurants in just the past four years.
"It's our responsibility to support small businesses," he said. "We have a responsibility to our employees, their families and our guests. It's a misunderstanding to think that the extra two hours affects only restaurants. There's a domino effect. We want to keep people within the City to help the gas stations, waffle houses, and struggling hotels. Extended hours would help create more jobs and benefit the City as a whole. Those extra two hours could have a huge impact on our community.
"You don't have to worry about the wrong type of business (coming to Douglasvillle)," he said. "You (the City Council) issue the business licenses. It's your decision."
Owner of Taco Mac, John Freer, echoed Jenkins' comments but said it's not just alcohol that restaurants will be serving during those extra two hours they will be open.
"The kitchens at our restaurants will stay open as long as hours allow," he said. "We're a family restaurant. We want to emphasize people keeping within our community and bringing new businesses to our community.
"After 20 years in the business, I know the impact is substantial and proven," he said of extending the pouring times. "Maybe people come in to eat and have a sweet tea or a diet Coke."
"I'm not for it or against it," Eric Potter said. "I support freedom and a citizen's right to choose. We're asking you to let the citizens decide."
Robert Wilbanks said he was a soldier who fought for freedom and agrees with Potter.
"I was a paratrooper," he said. "I fought for the rights within our Constitution. I've lost friends fighting for the same cause. We're not asking you to make the decision. We're asking for the right to vote."