The fee for Flowery Branch businesses to sell distilled spirits has been lowered after local restaurant owners complained the original rates were too high.
Nicholas and Alison St. Clair, owners of Antebellum Restaurant on Church Street in Flowery Branch, had complained to council members in November about finding it difficult to pay the original $5,000 fee for the sale of distilled spirits.
“It would really help out me and Alison and a few other businesses around the area if we could get that lowered to the average of other cities,” Nicholas St. Clair said at Thursday’s Flowery Branch city council meeting.
“We’ve brought a lot of people into Flowery Branch,” he added, “so we’re hoping you guys will work with us on this.”
He also said the fee being due by Dec. 1 is tough, as it comes during a slow time for the restaurant.
It was suggested by both the St. Clairs and other council members to move the fee due date to mid-December, when business picks back up for the restaurant. That would require a change in the ordinance.
The idea was also brought up about developing a downtown district that would be more flexibility in fees and due dates.
“Maybe (we can) look into the idea of creating a downtown business development area where we could maybe manipulate things within this particular area to encourage businesses to come in,” councilman Fred Richards said. “But we would need a little time to do that.”
“We have basically a redevelopment district in this area now that we’ve been looking at in all the planning that we’ve been doing,” City Manager Bill Andrew said in response. “It’s the idea that because the city’s investing so much with our planning and our redevelopment efforts that it might be we create a lower fee to encourage businesses to be in this area.”
It’s an idea council members expressed interest in continuing to pursue, but to alleviate the pressure on the St. Clairs for this year’s fee, it was ultimately suggested to lower the fee from $5,000 to $4,000.
Nicholas St. Clair said it was still very high, pointing out that Gainesville’s fee is $3,000.
“I think if you look at Gainesville and compare them to us, they’ve got a tremendous amount of places that have a liquor license,” councilman Joe Anglin said. “As opposed to us, we have seven establishments that have a distilled consumption license.”
Council members Anglin and Tara Richards both voted to approve lowering the fee to $4,000 to bring it in line with nearby cities like Buford, Cumming and Duluth; Mary Jones and Fred Richards opposed the motion. With councilman Damon Gibbs absent, Mayor Mike Miller broke the tie by approving to lower the fee.
The businesses that have already paid their fee for the year will receive refunds.
“Unfortunately, I think the relief that we’ll be able to provide is going to be after this year,” Tara Richards said. “We’re going to definitely try to create something that will help and attract other businesses downtown. I don’t know how much help it’s going to be this year.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, a change to the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance was unanimously approved to allow for the bottling of distilled spirits. A company within the city’s limits plans to import distilled spirits like bourbon and whiskey to bottle and then sell to distributors.
The change does not allow for the actual manufacturing of distilled spirits.