At some point, Cartersville Assistant City Attorney Keith Lovell said members of the city council will have to take action to rescind an emergency ordinance originally declared in late March.
But as he noted at last week’s Cartersville City Council work session meeting, doing so would also reverse a particular ordinance waiver.
“Once you take it away, the abilities of restaurants in town to do takeout alcohol — if any of them are still doing it, I don’t know — that goes away,” he said.
Cartersville City Manager Tamara Brock said that would be the only major change resulting from the City ending its emergency orders.
“What we started with, when we closed the restaurants and the movie theaters and the gyms, then the State [order] came out, so all of that was superseded,” she said. “So the only thing we still have is the alcohol.”
The emergency declaration was in effect for roughly one day before being superseded by a joint countywide emergency declaration
— which, in turn, was superseded by the statewide emergency declaration orders issued by Gov. Brian Kemp in early April.
“There are still recommendations out for people, the high-risk people are still covered by the orders, and nursing homes are still covered,” Lovell said. “Restrictions related to most of the City regulations? No, most of them have been done away with.”
If council members were to vote to end the emergency order — which, technically, has been in place for the last three months — Brock noted that restaurants given the OK to sell alcohol to-go would immediately lose the ability to do so.
“State law does not allow that, I do not believe the Department of Revenue has rescinded their earlier order where they allowed that,” Lovell explained. “The Department of Revenue will eventually put out a new bulletin saying ‘We’re no longer allowing it’ … to date, that [bulletin] has not happened.”
Members of the council took no action on repealing the emergency order at Thursday’s work session, but the topic did inspire some debate.
“I think it needs to go back to the way it was, but I don’t want to hinder anybody that needs the support right now with the option of to-go,” said Councilwoman Kari Hodge.
Councilman Jayce Stepp said he was also in favor of officially ending the citywide emergency declaration.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to call tomorrow and go ‘I cannot believe I can’t go buy my bottle of wine,’” he said. “Now, I don’t know any restaurants that are here that aren’t open … I mean, if that’s going to be held over our head, then we’ll never give it up.”
Santini said that, with the State emergency in place, the City cannot do anything more or less restrictive than outlined by Gov. Kemp’s orders.
“Once those orders go away, we can put our own emergency orders in,” he said.
Not quite, Lovell replied.
“Well, not exactly emergency orders,” he said. “You would be putting in ordinances on how you want businesses to operate within the City of Cartersville.”
Santini beseeched council members to give more thought to the matter ahead of the next regularly scheduled council meeting, currently slated for July 2.
“I think ya’ll maybe ought to ask some of your favorite restaurants over the next couple of weeks so we can talk about it next time,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like I’m wielding any special, magical powers … I’m pretty much neutered by what the governor’s said, anyway.”
“Because of our ordinance and the City requirement, there may be restaurants that are required to have seats in there, which prohibit appropriate social distancing,” he said. “It’s something for ya’ll to think about in the future, I don’t think you need to address it today.”