FLOWERY BRANCH — The City Council on Thursday passed revised alcohol ordinances and licensing fees.
Council member Joe Anglin voted against the proposed changes, noting dissatisfaction with happy hour provisions. Anglin expressed concern for public safety, citing late-hour drink specials that might lead to overserved patrons.
“There is an overarching public safety issue if you don’t have any teeth in the ordinance,” he said.
Council member Tara Richards repeated that she felt it was not government’s role to regulate private business. Council member Damon Gibbs agreed.
The revised ordinance allows private businesses greater decision-making on drink specials and a decrease in proposed food-to-drink sales ratios during the week. Newly added were stipulations for “corkage” services, the removal of wine from restaurants, and provisions for “growlers,” typically boutique beers available for bottling and purchase on-site.
Fees also were reviewed with the addition of those for corkage and permit transference in specific cases.
Members also approved granting the city clerk authority to issue, deny, suspend and revoke licenses with a right of appeal to City Council.
The city revisited its existing guidelines to refine, streamline and eliminate redundancies in the code, City Attorney Ron Bennett said during first reading of the proposed ordinance last month. The previous regulation was considered somewhat “piecemeal,” and areas of potential conflict needed to be addressed, he said. That ordinance was created during an earlier restructuring of the municipal code under time restraints.
According to Bennett, beyond business owners’ discussion regarding food ratios and happy hour requirements, no other public comment was received between first reading and final approval.
In other action, the council approved an application to submit a portion of Flowery Branch west of Interstate 985 to be designated an opportunity zone. Managed through the Department of Community Affairs, the designation is considered an economic development tool and offers a tax incentive to businesses locating there.
“It’s really a big incentive for bringing business in,” said John McHenry, Flowery Branch city planner.
Locating within the zone qualifies a business owner for a $3,500 tax credit per employee when hiring more than two.
“It levels the playing field,” McHenry said.
City Manager Bill Andrew said 117 jurisdictions are making use of the incentive.
For a larger employer who hired 100 new employees, it would mean a $3.5 million savings, McHenry said.
“In communities that need a little push,” said McHenry, it encourages business development.
“If other communities have it, and we don’t, it might be a disadvantage,” said McHenry, noting Oakwood is currently undertaking the lengthy application process.
“We’re already at a disadvantage with impact fees,” Gibbs said.