City of Conyers updates alcohol ordinance

CONYERS — The city of Conyers revised its alcohol ordinance this week to reflect some updated regulations from the state Department of Revenue.

The city made significant updates to its ordinance in December to address certain issues that had arisen over the years, such as allowing sidewalk cafes, and to tighten other provisions, such as requiring training for those serving alcohol.

A few weeks later, the city fine-tuned the revised ordinance, clarifying some of the language and easing up on some of the new restrictions.

On Wednesday, the City Council revisited the ordinance once again.

“We knew when we did the ordinance last year that it was going to be a work in progress,” said Conyers Chief Operating Officer David Spann. “We knew there were still things we needed to look into regarding Department of Revenue regulations.”

For example, he said, the state regulations require that liquor or beer and wine retailers that want to host wine tastings must do so from a separate address, and they must obtain a license permitting on-site consumption.

Another change to Conyers’ alcohol ordinance involves the procedure if a server serves alcohol to an underage consumer. While the server will face criminal charges in the Municipal Court, sanctions against the business owner will be handled administratively, Spann said.

“We were citing the owner as well as the server in those situations, handling it through the Municipal Court, but we decided it would be better to bring in the owner administratively since he may not have been present when the underage person was served,” Spann said. “We’re trying to deal with that in a better manner.”

The most notable change for business owners in the revised ordinance, he said, has to do with the renewal period.

Spann said alcohol licenses must be renewed at the end of each year, but typically business owners are given a grace period in January to pay the fees.

“By state regulation, business owners now have to have their license renewed by midnight on Dec. 31, so businesses are required to start coming in now to start the renewal process for 2014,” he said. “There is no more grace period.”

Some of the other provisions in the new alcohol ordinance include:

• Requires all new applicants for an alcoholic beverage license be fingerprinted;

• Places responsibility on holders of alcoholic beverage licenses to ensure that all required employers have a valid alcoholic beverage handling permit within 10 days of first day of work;

• Provides that the city manager has authority to grant an alcohol license holder permission to sell alcoholic beverages off-premises for certain events;

• Provides that one cannot purchase an alcoholic beverage at a place licensed for on-site consumption and then leave with an alcoholic beverage. An exception applies to properly corked partially consumed bottles of wine.

• Provides for the appeals process for denial of an application for alcoholic beverage to start with the chief of police, then go to the city manager and finally to the mayor and City Council.

Spann said that the city will continue to adjust its alcohol ordinances as the state regulations are amended.