30-day moratorium on special use permit for alcohol license

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special use permits

BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Fannin County Commissioners opted for a 30-day moratorium on special use permits for alcohol licenses while they gather more information and the ordinance is rewritten.

When Fannin County added the alcohol permit ordinance to its official code, commissioners did not include a special use provision, but the application for a special use permit is available to the public.

The first special permit didn’t cause any issues with the county, and the sheriff’s office gave the go-ahead for the second event requesting a special use permit.

Post One Johnny Scearce asked, “Is there any liability that can fall back on the county?” County Attorney Lynn Doss stated the county wouldn’t be liable for these events.

Special event permits require hired security to be always on the scene.  Doss added she believed the requirement for special events is one off-duty officer for every 200 to 300 people.

More venues are becoming available throughout the county and a special use permit might benefit their businesses. However, parameters need to be set in place to prevent everyone from applying for a special use beer and wine permit.

County Attorney Lynn Doss doesn’t know where the application came from, she didn’t create it, nor knows how it became available to the public.

“It’s not that it’s a bad idea. It might be a great idea. It’s just that literally in our ordinance there’s no provision for it. There’s no regulation of it. If the commission feels okay with just continuing on and letting individuals make applications until we can get the ordinance rewritten, which we’re in the process of doing, that’s fine. Another idea is just to say there is a moratorium there will be no special use permits issued until the ordinance is rewritten,” Doss explained.

Since beer and wine came into the county, two special use permits have been approved for use.

Liquor sales aren’t allowed within the county, but the city can sell liquor, beer, and wine. Liquor requires a vote, and when alcohol was placed on the ballot previously, it failed. The commissioners at the time found a way around the citizen’s opinion and brought just beer and wine into the county.

police chief

Post One Johnny Scearce also serves as Blue Ridge Police Chief and has experience with alcohol regulations.

“I just think when it comes to alcohol you’ve got to have things in place that’s going to cover you. There is a lot of liability,” Scearce remarked. “Our responsibility here is to make sure we’re looking at the best interest of the people.”

Special use permits would only be for beer and wine.

Plus, if the county grants a license, the Georgia Department of Revenue still must approve a license for a business going forward.

“Willow Falls can get a permit that’s not a special event permit that would be good for a year,” Doss explained, “It has to renew every year.”

The first issuance of an alcohol license is $10,000 and the renewal is $150. It’s also tied to food sales. The markers serve as a buffer to keep people out of the market.

Chairman Jamie Hensley posed a hypothetical for a person who received their alcohol license, “I start going to different venues in the county…how is that fare that I’m able to do that when say Toccoa Restaurant had to pay $10,000 to be able to sell it…If I’m the person that gets to put on that one-time event at this location and now I can go to this location and do it again because I’ve got my license.”

Doss confirmed that a situation is something that needs to be addressed in the updated ordinance. She then cited a Supreme Court Case that stated an alcohol license is a privilege is not a right. The county can put in place different stipulations depending upon the business and use purposes.

Anyone who serves alcohol in Georgia must pass a background check, which is currently reported to the state.

A facility in Georgia can only hold 24 special use permits a year. Public parks are considered county property and will never be allowed as a location for alcohol events.

Some Fannin County restaurants would prefer that the new ordinance included Sunday beer and wine sales to compete with Blue Ridge establishments.

The updated ordinances in Fannin are in process but likely won’t be finalized till the end of the year. Ordinance updates require two public hearings before final approval as well.

In 30 days, the commissioners will decide to either extend or eliminate the moratorium. During this time, they will review all existing materials and decide on the best course forward.

The Blue Coyote faces alleged ordinance violations

City Council, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, City, Blue Coyote, Alcohol, Licenses, Closed, Hearing, Court, Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Municipal Judge, Robert Sneed, Petition

Blue Ridge, Ga. – City Council met Friday, April 30, 2020 in a special called meeting to appoint a Hearing Officer that will oversee a case involving the possible “suspension and revocation of an occupational tax certificate allowing for the sale of alcoholic beverages”.

Blue Ridge Municipal Court Judge Robert Sneed will be put in place as the hearing officer.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, City, Blue Coyote, Alcohol, Licenses, Closed, Hearing, Court, Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Municipal Judge, Robert Sneed, Petition

City Council meets to instate Hearing Officer.

Council members were unable to speak on the specifics of the case, with Mayor Donna Whitener telling press, “All questions on the matter will have to be directed to the hearing officer.”

The case is presumably involving the City of Blue Ridge vs. The Blue Coyote, a restaurant in the Commercial Business District of Blue Ridge.

Recent events at the Blue Coyote have caused complaints from citizens, along with allegations of the establishment being in violation of numerous sections of the City’s Alcohol Ordinance.

One issue that has been discussed on previous occasions, not only of the Blue Coyote but of neighboring businesses, is violation of the noise ordinance due to live amplified music. The Blue Coyote, however, has not received a citation from the City on the matter.

The most recent issue that could be cause for the hearing involves an altercation that took place between patrons of The Blue Coyote. That altercation which took place in April continued outside of the establishment onto City property according to sources.

Currently several businesses in Fannin County are supporting a petition that is circulating to save The Blue Coyote from possible penalties of the hearing. 

The hearing is set to take place in May but could see delays if requested by either legal party.

Sneed will ultimately decide the fate of the establishment. If found to be in violation of the City’s Alcohol Ordinance, several possibilities of penalties are on the table for The Blue Coyote. These penalties range from a fine, to a probation period where no other violations may occur, to the possible revocation of the occupational tax certificate allowing for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce website.

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