Rockdale eyes permits to serve alcohol

CONYERS -- Wait staff in Rockdale County restaurants may soon be asked to obtain a county permit to be allowed to serve alcohol.

County officials are working on a proposal to set up a permitting system for servers that would be similar to one in place in the city of Conyers and surrounding counties.

Marshall Walker, director of the Rockdale County Department of Planning and Zoning, said the proposal is in the preliminary stages and could come to the Board of Commissioners for consideration by the middle of next year.

He explained education and public safety are the objectives if server permitting is established in the county. DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties have had a server permit process in place for years.

Part of the process would be a required course for servers on what they need to know about cutting alcohol service off to customers if they have had too much to drink and the potential dangers that could result in a lawsuit.

"The business owners understand, and they have some liability, but the servers don't understand they have liability," Walker said. "When something happens, and you never want anything to happen, if somebody gets drunk, leaves and has a wreck and kills somebody or kills them. Then somebody decides they are to sue the restaurant and sue the server because they should have known they were too drunk to drive and kept giving them drinks."

Walker said the permits would probably cost about $15 or $20 but it would not be a significant source of revenue for the county. There are only eight to 10 establishments in the county that serve alcohol for on-premise consumption.

Walker said they are considering a server permit program similar to the one in the city of Conyers. The city's program is operated through the Conyers Police Department, which also performs background checks for employers.

Costs to the county are another consideration and Walker said part of the preliminary work is to consider contracting with the city of Conyers to extend their server permit program to the establishments in unincorporated Rockdale County.

"They have the photo ID and procedure already in place, whereas we establish that ourselves, and we have got to figure out where we're going to do it. Ideally, it would be the Sheriff's Office, but the city Police Department already does it," Walker said. "So could we contract with the city to do our permits? Is that going to be cheaper than setting it up ourselves? We've got to look into that."