A new alcohol ordinance is taking shape in Lula.
City Council held its first reading of the law Tuesday night, with a public hearing set for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at City Hall, 6055 Main St. A final vote could come in February.
“We still haven’t had the dialogue we’re wanting to have with the Hall County Sheriff’s (Office),” City Manager Dennis Bergin said, adding that it’s just a timing issue. “We may still get some comments back from them prior to the next council meeting and public hearing.”
In an interview last week, Bergin said the meeting with sheriff’s officials would be “to make sure we’ve got the elements they know have worked for them in regards to enforcement.”
Bergin briefly went over the sections covered in the ordinance Tuesday night, but didn’t go into detail.
And the council didn’t discuss the ordinance, which has been in development since local voters approved a Nov. 8 referendum to allow liquor to be served by the drink.
City officials have said they would develop a comprehensive alcoholic beverages law — one that would also include beer and wine sales in restaurants — if the liquor vote passed.
Currently, only beer and wine package sales at local stores are allowed in Lula, and they can only be sold Monday through Saturday.
Sunday alcohol sales of any type aren’t permitted. The only way to allow them would be through another referendum.
At a December work session on the ordinance, officials talked about allowing alcohol sales in establishments 10 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday.
One other key matter is determining the percentage of food receipts for businesses seeking to serve alcohol — an issue that could be nailed down after public comments, Bergin said.
At the December meeting, Bergin had quoted from a draft ordinance that food “should be at least 50 percent of the total.” He then quickly added, “I should have left that blank. That’s probably one of the bigger sticking points for you.”
Keeping a proper balance is “a challenge, from what we understand from other communities,” Bergin said at the time, “but there should be a predetermined limit that would suggest ‘X’ percentage of their sales would be from food.”
And through the food requirement, “we’re already establishing a precedent that we’re not going to allow bars,” Bergin said.
If someone came into City Hall asking for a liquor license, he added, “the first thing I would do based on the way this ordinance is written is I’d validate they have a business license as a restaurant. If they don’t do that, they’re not going to qualify here.”