Council set to amend alcohol ordinance

Published 12:33 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

Now that Bainbridge citizens have voted in favor of allowing alcoholic drinks to be served in restaurants on Sunday, the next step is for the City Council to amend city ordinances to make it law.

City Manager Chris Hobby said the proposed amendment to the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance will be introduced at the City Council’s March 20 meeting. According to the law, the council has to hold a public hearing at one meeting, wait until its next meeting to hold another public hearing and then vote to amend the ordinance.

Hobby said the council could adopt the amended ordinance as early as its April 3 meeting, but speculated that the council may wait until its April 15 meeting to do so. That is because the first Sunday after April 3 is Easter Sunday and Hobby said the council might be reluctant to have the first day of Sunday alcohol sales fall on the religious holiday.

Bainbridge citizens rejected a referendum to allow package sales of alcohol on Sundays in places like liquor stores and convenience and grocery stores. That referendum had been held under the terms of a 2011 Georgia law which permitted local governments to give citizens a choice for the first time. Before, package sales of alcohol were prohibited on Sundays; they are still prohibited on Christmas Day.

Could citizens lobby the City Council to hold another referendum on Sunday package sales? Hobby said he didn’t expect it would happen anytime soon.

“Elections have consequences,” Hobby said. “I think the council would be reluctant to hold another referendum after citizens have just registered their opinion on the issue. So there’s no hurry. From a practical point of view, if all of the towns surrounding us approved Sunday package sales, we might have to reconsider it.”

In the Sunday package sales referendum, held in conjunction with Georgia’s presidential primary on March 6, 691 citizens voted “no” and 626 voted “yes.” The two referendums only apply to businesses within city limits — Decatur County, Brinson, Climax and Attapulgus would have to hold their own referendums to allow Sunday alcohol sales.