Final approval for Hall County’s new alcohol ordinance, which would allow for Sunday sales in unincorporated parts of the county, is expected this week.
With the Hall County Board of Commissioners set to pass the new ordinance Thursday, businesses will be able to sell beer and wine this Sunday.
On March 6, Hall voters approved ballot measures during the presidential primary to allow Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated parts of the county.
While county officials have been redrafting an ordinance to lift the ban, commissioners also sought to update some other county alcohol rules that in many cases were stricter than state codes.
Commissioner Scott Gibbs said the new ordinance will “level the playing field” for businesses in unincorporated Hall County that have been hamstrung by rules tighter than those faced by competitors in neighboring cities and counties.
That should help some unconventional restaurant owners such as Chris and Janet Bennett, who run the Dockside Grill restaurant at Aqualand Marina. The outdoor café is open during spring and summer months to marina customers.
The existing alcohol ordinance excludes the café from selling booze because there was no indoor seating. The ordinance also excludes seasonal restaurants from obtaining an alcohol license.
Until recently, the restaurant has been fine with not selling beer and wine, but Janet Bennett says customers have begun to expect the availability of alcohol at marina cafés.
Similar restaurants around Lake Lanier that weren’t subject to the county’s rules were offering alcohol to guests.
The competition forced the Bennetts seek an exception from the Hall County Board of Commissioners. In February, commissioners granted them a temporary alcohol license, which would last until the new ordinance was in place.
Dockside Grill reopened for the season last week with that temporary license in place.
“It’s been so positive,” said Bennett on offering customers beer and wine to complement their meals.
She called the new allowance “icing on the cake” for what seems to be a promising year for the restaurant.
Still, she said, the lifting of the Sunday sales ban can’t come soon enough.
Customers got “a little feisty” last Sunday, she said, when they still couldn’t sell them beer.
In addition to revisions to Sunday sales, the proposed ordinance would also:
• Broaden the definition of “restaurant” to allow more businesses to sell alcohol.
• Allow special events licenses for catered functions.
• Reduce building location requirements by allowing alcohol licenses to be given to businesses more than 100 yards away from a church and 200 yards from school grounds instead of the previous rule of 600 yard