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Hall officials take look at alcohol code

POSTED: January 6, 2009 12:57 a.m.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will discuss setting penalties at its next meeting for two convenience stores that sold alcohol to minors.

Currently, penalties are up to the commission's discretion but some commissioners would like to see uniform punishments for violating the alcoholic beverage code.

At its Monday work session, Susan Rector, director of Hall County Business Licenses, brought two cases of alcoholic beverage code violation before the commission. Marathon Food Mart on Thompson Bridge Road was caught selling to a minor for the first time, but it was the second violation for Meeks Grocery on Atlanta Highway.

Rector said the penalty for the first violation of the county's alcoholic beverage code is at the discretion of the board of commissioners.

"The code offers them some guidelines of sorts, but it's up to them as to what they want to do. If they want to suspend the license it's up to them to decide the amount of time they want to suspend it," Rector said.

In the past, the commission voted to suspend a license for 15 days and charge a $250 penalty fee.

Commissioner Ashley Bell said he would like to look into solidifying the punishments for selling alcohol to minors.

"Something like that we should have some precedent or policy," Bell said.

Rector said Hall County businesses are rarely caught selling alcohol to people younger than 21.

"Fortunately we don't see it often. I hope that indicates it's not being done," Rector said. "The last time we had any cases in this regard was in (2005)."

Because the occurrences are few and far between, the commissioners have the last previous case and the code as examples of how to penalize the businesses.

"I would hope we'd be treating everyone with similar circumstances the same," Bell said. "We will have in our county ordinances exactly how to deal with repeat offenders."

Currently, the commission can also decide how severely to punish second-time violators of the alcoholic beverage code, but an additional violation always will result in the license being revoked.

"The first offense is completely up to the commission as to how they want to do it. The second offense is a minimum of 30 days but can be more at the discretion of the commission. The third offense, they lose their licence," Rector said.

Most alcoholic beverage code violations end up before the board after the case has been through the legal process.

"The Georgia Department of Revenue and the Hall County Sheriff's Office are usually the ones that make the cases initially, and the Hall County commission will act on those once the state and the local governing jurisdictions take their own actions, then Hall County takes action on the license," Rector said.

"They make us aware of the violation ... then we have always waited for the state and or the county to have their cases heard before we take action based on the violation of the Hall County alcoholic beverage code."



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