City commission denies ‘small bar’ ordinance

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023–11:22 a.m.

-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-

After a push to remove specific hours of operations for a small bar ordinance proposal approved by Rome’s Alcohol Control Commission failed, the entire proposal was also voted down in a tie-breaker vote by Rome’s mayor.

The original measure, as proposed by the ACC, was an ordinance that would allow bars in the city for the first time in modern history. There is currently a food-to-drink sales ratio at venues that serve liquor.

The proposed ordinance would have eliminated that ratio requirement with some restrictions. The establishments would have to be small — no more than 1,800 square feet, or 2,200 square feet with outside service. Additionally, they can only serve from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; can’t charge an admission fee; and any entertainment must be preapproved by the Alcohol Control Commission.

The restriction on when the establishments could be open, current establishments are allowed to remain open until 2 a.m., was a sticking point in Monday’s commission meeting.

Commissioner Bill Collins sought to have the time restriction for small bars removed from the ordinance, saying the restriction would not be fair to the new, smaller, businesses.

“Have the same playing field if you’re going to charge the same fee,” Collins said, citing previous exceptions made for current downtown establishments.

Commissioner Jamie Doss, among others, opposed amending the motion. 

“This is a big change for the city, and I think we need to think about it a little longer, but I appreciate what you’re thinking about, fairness, Commissioner Collins,” Doss said.

McDaniel lauded the ACC and that he felt the proposal was well thought out. He then cited the passage of an open container ordinance for the downtown area.

We went through the angst in the open container discussion and I was one of the people adamantly opposed to that,” McDaniel said. “I thought we would have buildings sliding off into the river, and none of that has happened and I think it has gone very well.”

City Clerk Joe Smith said if the time limit is removed, the small bar businesses don’t have any difference from the others who have to maintain a food-drink ratio. 

A vote was taken to amend the proposal, removing the time restriction. Commissioners Mark Cochran and Collins voted to amend. Commissioners Jim Bojo, Doss, Bonny Askew, Randy Quick, McDaniel, and Elaina Beeman voted no. The amendment measure failed.

Prior to voting on the ordinance, Quick asked ACC Chair Monica Sheppard what input the Rome Police Department had during their discussions.

“They had no concerns,” Sheppard said.

The city then voted on a motion to pass the ordinance with the time restriction. Commissioners McDaniel, Cochran, Doss, and Quick voted to pass the ordinance with Bojo, Beeman, Askew, and Collins voting no. Mayor Sundai Stevenson cast the tiebreaker vote to deny passage of the ordinance.

This story is available through a news partnership with the Rome News-Tribune. More coverage can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com.

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