Loganville again amends alcohol ordinance in effort to attract restaurants

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The Loganville City Council Thursday again amended the alcohol ordinance in an effort to attract restaurants to the city, but it took some discussion before the vote was taken.

The item was not on the work session agenda on Monday, June 10, but had been added to the Thursday voting session. The amendment introduced was not to change the percentage of alcohol to food as established in the current ordinance, but to change what qualified as “food.” The new ordinance had already established that in the downtown overlay district the percentage of alcohol to food would be 25% food to 75% alcohol sales. City-wide it is 50 – 50% food to alcohol. The change suggested was not in the percentages, but just in what would be classified as food. Under the new ordinance, food would constitute food, beer and wine and alcohol would constitute just spirits. So that would put 25% beer wine and food and 75% spirits for inside the overlay district and 50% beer wine and food to 50% spirits in the rest of the city.

However, Councilman Jay Boland was not comfortable with it being sprung on them with no discussion and he proposed that it be tabled until the following month. His motion was supported by both Councilwomen Anne Huntsinger and Linda Dodd, but not by Councilwoman Lisa Newberry and Councilmen Skip Baliles and Danny Ford. It rested on Mayor Rey Martinez to break the tie, which he did, voting not to table the matter and to open it up for discussion.

Newberry and Baliles said they hear all the time that Loganville needs nice restaurants, but restaurants will not come without a business-friendly alcohol ordinance.

“We hear all the time that people want nice restaurants, seafood and steakhouses, and we all want that, but the industry tells us that they won’t make it without the changes,” Baliles said. “Now it’s not going to affect me, but if that’s what they need to come, then I’m in favor of it. We don’t want folks to go to Monroe or just across the line in Gwinnett County.”

Huntsinger and Dodd expressed their concern that opening up to 75% or 50% just spirit beverages may attract the wrong kind of bar and put extra pressure on the police force. Huntsinger asked for law enforcement to weigh in on the issue. Loganville Assistant Chief Dick Lowry said he couldn’t see into the future, but expressed that he too had some concerns about whether it would require extra policing and possibly more staff down the road.

However, when the residents in attendance weighed in, the consensus appeared to be more of a concern that restaurants would continue going elsewhere and people would still drive through the city on their way home having eaten, and drank, somewhere else.

Newberry then made a motion to make the suggested changes to include beer and wine as food and keep the percentages at 25% to 75% in the Main Street overlay district and 50 – 50% in the rest of the city. Baliles and Ford voted with her and this time the mayor’s vote was not needed to break a tie. Boland was convinced to go along with the change and the motion passed 4 to 2 with Huntsinger and Dodd voting against it.

The hope is that now some of those restaurants will take a closer look at Loganville.

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