Lula residents may get the chance this November to vote on several issues concerning alcohol sales, including liquor by the drink.
All that’s permitted now in the northeast Hall County city is beer and wine package sales, except on Sundays.
The city is looking at one or more ballot possibilities: beer and wine by the drink, package liquor sales, liquor by the drink and Sunday alcohol sales.
With growth moving Lula’s way, particularly commercial and retail development along Ga. 365, “it’s reasonable to expect some of the investments you’d like to see in that corridor … are going to have some form of alcohol sales,” City Manager Dennis Bergin told Lula City Council during a Tuesday morning work session.
“Like it or not, (alcohol sales have) become commonplace, and we’ve got to be there along with everybody else in this competitive market,” he said.
“We want to be on a level playing field — that’s a reasonable expectation,” Bergin said. “And the other reasonable expectation is we can do a good job of governance to assure that some of the concerns the community should have (are addressed).”
City Attorney Robert “Lucky” Chandler said he would proceed with drafting some possible documents the council could mull in moving the issue toward a referendum. The council could consider them in June.
“You’re not committed to anything at that point,” Chandler said. “You can still ask questions and say yes or no. … We’ve got plenty of time to meet the November deadline, but we don’t really have time to waste.”
Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said she must have the information for ballot questions by Aug. 12.
Package liquor sales is a little more complex of an issue, officials said.
The city must put a referendum on the ballot concerning that issue if at least 35 percent of city residents submit a petition calling for such a referendum. Chandler is going to explore whether the council can act on its own in placing the issue on the ballot, Bergin said.
City officials also talked about a potential future change in an ordinance to allow beer and wine wholesale distribution, which wouldn’t involve alcohol sales or consumption of any kind.
“I don’t think that’s an immediate need for you today,” Bergin said.
Another issue the council may eventually consider is farm wineries and what’s permitted there, such as sampling.
Bergin said the city should consider it, but he suggested that may be “more than we should offer to the public right now without understanding where they’d like to go communitywise.”