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Hall County delays Sunday sales
Government wants to clean up ordinance; changes expected to take effect April 29
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Today will be the third dry Sunday since voters approved lifting restrictions of Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated Hall County.

However, April 29 is likely the soonest Hall businesses and restaurants outside city limits can expect the change to take effect, as the county government looks to overhaul its current alcohol ordinance.

Hall voters approved two ballot measures to allow Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated parts of the county during the March 6 presidential primary.

The first question, which asked voters to allow licensed stores to sell packaged beer and wine on Sundays, won 57 percent approval. The second, which would let restaurants and bars sell liquor by the drink on Sundays, garnered 58 percent.

The approval allows unincorporated areas of the county to join the cities of Flowery Branch, Gainesville and Oakwood in lifting the blue law — but only once commissioners pass a new ordinance saying so.

That new ordinance also requires two public hearings at their meetings.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Scott Gibbs has said the county will take this opportunity to "clean up" the current ordinance as well, which has some restrictions that go above and beyond what state law restricts.

One such restriction got in the way of Chris and Janet Bennett, owners of Dockside Grill at Aqualand Marina off Lake Lanier, in trying to serve wine and beer at their covered outdoor restaurant.

Hall County has an ordinance banning outdoor restaurants with covered decks from serving booze, unless there is also indoor seating and restrooms. Dockside Grill, which primarily serves Aqualand Marina clients, does not meet those requirements.

That has created a challenge for the restaurant, which is competing with lakeside marina restaurants in other counties that don't have that rule.

And Commissioner Craig Lutz said in a February work session that rule didn't make sense.

To ease the burden, commissioners granted Dockside Grill a temporary alcohol license while they look to strike such bans.

"What we're finding is some of our outdated local laws are once again more restrictive than the state law," Commissioner Billy Powell said. "We're trying to meet the state requirements."

And by meet, he means to avoid exceeding state codes.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners are still awaiting a revised ordinance to be written by county staff dealing with alcohol sales.

"We want to move expeditiously to make the necessary code changes, for the benefit of local businesses," said Hall County spokeswoman Nikki Young in an email to The Times. "However, we will keep an eye on pending state legislation that also may affect alcohol codes and make changes as needed."

The legislative session is scheduled to end this week.


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