Cartersville council, alcohol board hold joint meeting

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The Cartersville City Council and the Alcohol Control Board met Wednesday for a work session to discuss revisions to the current alcohol ordinance, particularly concerning the creation of an entertainment district and its effect on the downtown business district.

"There has been a lot of discussion about doing something in the downtown area," said Mayor Matt Santini. "It all got started, at least in my mind, when Cohutta Fishing Co. made a case for serving in the store. Retailers are trying to combat online sales by offering a different kind of shopping experience. It kind of laid dormant until Olive Tree and Vine requested addition of beer to their place, so it has kind of evolved into rather than making specific exceptions, we would want to make sort of a blanket policy because it is easier administratively and it's easier for you, the board."

Assistant City Attorney Keith Lovell presented a list of four proposed revisions to the alcohol ordinance.

"When I drafted this ordinance," Lovell said, "my goal was to create a defined area where people could leave a business and take alcohol outside with them."

The current ordinance doesn't allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed outside except in a designated festival zone.

"The second goal is to determine whether to allow microbreweries and distilleries to operate outside industrial areas in the city of Cartersville," he said.

Lovell said the third goal involved doing away with mandatory reporting of food sales percentages — currently a pouring establishment must account for a certain percentage of gross sales to food — however that exclusion would have no effect on Sunday alcohol sales which will still require "an establishment that sells malt beverages, wine or distilled spirits to derive at least 50 percent of its gross income from the sale of meals prepared, served and consumed on the premises."

Lovell also said he wanted to address the issue of corkage.

"Let's say you go to a restaurant and buy a bottle of wine and maybe have a glass or two," Lovell said. "So you still have a half a bottle left. This would allow the restaurant to reseal the bottle so you can take it home. Right now, we don't allow any alcohol to leave a restaurant's premises."

The last goal, Lovell said, was to consider issuance of amity or consumption on premises licenses to retail businesses not involved in food services. 

"The current ordinance is inconsistent," said Planning Director Randy Mannino. "We have Cohutta that's allowed to serve, cigar bars that are allowed to serve but if a hair salon wants to let their patrons have a glass of wine, they can't do it. We need to make it consistent."

Some board and council members expressed opposition to an entertainment district and a further extension of alcohol sales, fearing it would change downtown from a shopping experience to a festival experience. 

"I think the people that oppose these changes have never tried to survive in a business downtown," Councilmember Kari Hodge said. "I ran one for 14 years and it was a struggle every day. The way you prosper is to have people come through your door every day. I don't favor people being able to walk around with alcohol 24-7, but festivals bring people, but if you confine them to those fenced in areas of a festival zone, they can't go anywhere. The fact is, this [entertainment district] is going to bring a lot of people to a downtown that is really in need."