City updates alcohol ordinance

CONYERS -- The City Council updated Conyers' alcohol ordinance Wednesday night, eliminating some regulations and adding some new ones.

Conyers' Chief Operating Officer David Spann said city personnel spent "hundreds of manhours" on the project, which also took care of some housekeeping issues by clarifying a number of definitions, such as lounge, nightclub and private club. Spann said the ordinance definitions are now consistent with the definitions used by the Planning and Inspections Department, which will improve permitting and enforcement for the city.

Spann said Thursday the need to update the ordinance became apparent over time as enforcement issues arose in the city. The city became aware of "weaknesses and loopholes," in the ordinance, and "we just knew we needed to tighten things up," he said.

One of the most significant changes in the ordinance was the addition of a provision allowing sidewalk cafes where food and/or beverages are served. Although businesses, particularly in Olde Town, have been operating sidewalk cafes, the city's alcohol ordinance did not address that function.

Spann said the omission actually came to the city's attention following an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint filed after a citizen found the sidewalk blocked by tables at Celtic Tavern in Olde Town. The new ordinance stipulates that sidewalk cafes are confined to the portion of the sidewalk directly in front of the associated restaurant and the width of the cafe may not extend beyond the width of the restaurant. In addition, there must be a minimum of 48 inches between the street curb and any chairs and tables in the cafe, as required by the ADA.

Spann said the city took steps in Olde Town to make sure that restaurants could be ADA compliant by moving a street light and a couple of planter boxes.

The new ordinance also requires more training for those serving alcohol, tightens licensing requirements, limits the number of off-site catering functions a business can have to six per year, prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption in containers larger than 24 ounces, and prohibits those serving alcohol from drinking it at the same time.

"We don't want someone to determine if someone else is under the influence while they are consuming alcohol," Spann told the council.

The ordinance now allows patrons to have a beer and a shooter at the same time, permits the establishment of brewpubs that produce no more than 5,000 barrels of beer in a calendar year, and allows patrons to purchase malt beverages in growlers from retail outlets, among other changes.