Porterdale to hold liquor-by-the-drink referendum

PORTERDALE - Residents will have the opportunity to decide whether private clubs will be able to sell liquor by the drink in a referendum to be held Tuesday in conjunction with the General Election.

According to City Manager Tom Fox, who also serves as elections superintendent for the town, the municipal referendum will be held in a separate polling place from the General Election balloting due to space concerns.

Polling for the General Election will be held at Porterdale Baptist Church, at the intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and East Palmetto Street. Because the space at the church is not large enough to accommodate two elections at one time, particularly when a large turnout is expected for the General Election, balloting in the municipal referendum will be held at the Porterdale Volunteer Fire Department, also located on Ga. 81. Fox said votes in the referendum will be tallied by Porterdale elections officials.

Porterdale already has a liquor-by-the-drink ordinance for restaurants. Tuesday's referendum addresses only private clubs. The council voted in August to call for the referendum after the city annexed the Covington Elks Lodge into its corporate limits. The annexation took effect Sept. 1.

Fox said Tuesday that the Elks Lodge is the only private club in Porterdale that would qualify to serve alcohol if the referendum is approved.

Ray Edwards, a trustee for the Elks Lodge, said at the time of the annexation that a major reason the Elks asked to be annexed into Porterdale was in order to accommodate members who have dances at the lodge and dinner on Friday nights and for those who rent the club for events such as wedding rehearsal dinners.

"Any parties always had to be BYOB (bring your own bottle)," Edwards said. "We feel like it's an accommodation for our members and also for those who rent the lodge. We can handle that particular area ourselves, so it's less worry for them."

Voters in the referendum will be asked to respond "yes" or "no" to the following question:

"Shall alcoholic beverages by the drink, for consumption on the premises only, be allowed in private clubs?"

The city's code of ordinances defines a private club, in part, as "any nonprofit fraternal association organized under the laws of this state which has been in existence at least one year prior to the filing of its application for a license to be issued pursuant to this ordinance; has at least 75 regular dues paying members; owns, hires or leases a building or space within a building for the reasonable use of its members, which building or space has suitable kitchen and dining room space and equipment, and is staffed with a sufficient number of employees for cooking, preparing and serving meals for its members and guests; and has no member, officer, agent or employee directly or indirectly receiving, in the form of salary or other compensation, any profits for the sale of alcoholic beverages beyond a fixed salary."

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.