In a controversial move because of the short notice as well as the scope of the proposed changes, the City of Savannah announced late Friday afternoon — right before the long Labor Day weekend — that it will hold two public presentations this week to present changes to the City’s Alcoholic Beverage Ordinance.
The public can attend one of two presentations – at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. – on Tuesday, Sept. 2, in the Bryan Room of the Savannah Civic Center. "Major revisions will be outlined, questions can be asked and feedback will be solicited," a City spokesperson assures.
Two follow-up drop-in sessions will be held from 1-3 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in the Bryan Room of the Civic Center. During these sessions, the public will have time to ask questions one-on-one with staff.
Invitations to these meetings were sent to all alcohol license holders, the City says, though many bar owners received them late last week. "Further sessions will be held following these meetings before the proposal is submitted to City Council for action," we're told.
The proposed comprehensive revisions to the Alcohol Ordinance – the first since 1998 – were drafted by a multi-departmental City team including representative from Police, Fire, the Revenue Department, Management Services and the City Attorney’s Office.
"The changes attempt to keep pace with innovation in the business community while providing more enforcement options and doing more to increase public safety and prevent minors from illegally consuming alcohol," the City spokesperson says.
Major changes include:
· The creation of distinct categories of license holders. Currently, a business seeking an alcohol license can only be considered either a bar or a restaurant.
· Repeal of the hybrid license in favor of a late-night permit that would apply to all license holders after midnight
· Repeal of bar cards in favor of mandatory training and record keeping on the part of license holders
· Further protections to prevent minors from coming into contact with alcohol
· Recognition of home brewers, caterers, and brew pubs
· Security requirements for bars/clubs of a certain size on the weekends
· Expansion of the boundary for to-go cups to include Forsyth Park
· Provides for monetary penalties for offenses
The draft Alcohol Ordinance, along with a special FAQ section on the changes and a form to provide comments, is available at savannahga.gov/alcohol