A short-staffed Emerson City Council voted 2-0 to approve a vendor’s application to sell alcoholic beverages within LakePoint Sporting Community at Monday evening’s public meeting.
“The application is for a pouring license for malt beverages at the baseball facility,” said Emerson City Manager Kevin McBurnett. “If you will recall, one of the amendments that the council made to that alcohol ordinance allowed for a pouring license at LakePoint … the application and investigation ticket was reviewed by the chief of police, and he has made a favorable recommendation.”
With council members Gerald Earwood and Vincent Wiley absent, councilmen Donnie Bagwell and Ed Brush gave their approval for Top Shelf Concessions, Inc. to serve alcohol — at a limited capacity — in and around LakePoint’s baseball and soccer facilities.
“When I initially applied for the license, I was told that the 124 LakePoint Parkway address that had been designated for that area encompassed the soccer complex as well,” said applicant Tony Black. “It won’t involve the beach volleyball [area] or any of that, but the soccer complex was going to be included.”
However, as McBurnett noted, the approval does come with a major caveat. He read a letter from Emerson Chief of Police Kyle Teems, outlining certain suggested provisions pertaining to public safety.
“I would further recommend since this is a family-oriented facility which consists of a majority of children participating in the events, that in the best interest and welfare of the children and families in attendance, that one of the stipulations be that any time there are alcohol sales permitted, it is required a minimum of one Emerson Police Officer or officer designated by the chief of police be hired by Top Shelf Concessions to work security,” Teems wrote.
McBurnett told council members that the City’s alcohol ordinance does not specifically require Teems’ recommendation, however.
“On our ordinance, it’s very strict to where we can and cannot sell alcohol or pour alcohol in the City, and when you go through it, if you get to a facility that is going to have entertainment — and entertainment is described as ‘music and/or dancing’ — then the chief of police has the right to dictate how many officers they are required to have at any given time when they’re doing that,” he said.
To the best of his knowledge, McBurnett said the alcohol ordinance does not stipulate the same for the City’s sports complexes.
“If the council so desires to approve this ordinance, they can just approve it and issue the license or you have the right — since this is a privileged license and not a right — to add on a stipulation as the chief requested,” he said.
Reflecting on the national headlines-grabbing brawl at LakePoint’s Champions Center last summer at the inaugural Battle for Georgia basketball tournament, Bagwell said he did have some concerns about the pouring license.
“The thing that keeps going through my mind is what would happen last year if alcohol had been involved in the event that took place at the gymnasium,” he said. “I’ve been to tournaments down there where that event easily could have taken place between parents and coaches.”
McBurnett said that, under the pouring license, Top Shelf Concessions would not be allowed to sell alcohol at the indoor pavilion or Terminus Wakepark — at least, for the time being.
“Speaking with representatives of LakePoint on behalf of Top Shelf, Top Shelf would be looking to get a catering permit to do it at either one of those two facilities,” McBurnett said, “and if they see that the desire is there and it’s profitable for business, then they would look at making a permanent establishment at those and then getting an alcohol application at those facilities as well.”
Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to approve the pouring license, with Chief Teems’ caveat included.
“If the applicant felt that the chief of police was stepping outside his bounds,” McBurnett added, “he could then request a hearing before you to have that modified.”
Black said Top Shelf Concessions intends on selling alcoholic beverages from 12:30 to 7 p.m.
“I’ve spoken to a few of the parents that I know personally who have teams that come out here and play, and we’ve tossed the idea out to them to see how they would respond,” he said. “It’s been all favorable, and they actually point out that some of the other facilities that they do tournaments at, whether it’s in Florida or around here in Georgia, they have alcohol sales there.”
Black said he expects alcohol sales at the complex to prove quite lucrative.
“We feel like this is going to be a good opportunity for us to grow our business, but also add a new environment and new item that we can present to the customers,” he said. “When people drink, they like to eat, too, so we hope it raises our food sales, as well.”