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Lula officials are moving closer to placing a referendum on the November ballot asking voters whether they want to approve changes to the city's alcohol ordinance, including allowing farm wineries, permitting new retail stores and potential liquor sales.
But sales of alcohol on Sundays are likely to remain prohibited, according to city officials.
Only beer and wine package sales are allowed in Lula at this time — Monday through Saturday, that is.
With growth comes demand, however, and City Attorney Robert “Lucky” Chandler began drafting a proposed new ordinance in May after initial discussions.
He said he threw everything into the first draft as a way to begin the process.
Council members got their first look at it during a work session Monday evening.
A committee of Chandler, City Manager Dennis Bergin, Mayor Milton Turner and council members Garnett Smith and Vince Evans will work through the proposals by line-item in the coming weeks and months.
Bergin said there are state minimum requirements that must be met, which explains the need to update some portions of Lula’s code, but city officials have wide discretion to raise the bar.
They may want to strike certain parts, or modify the language of others to increase restrictions.
Possible changes include addresses things like farm wineries; sales of liquor, beer and wine by the drink; and zoning issues and setback requirements for new retail sales.
For example, population thresholds could be put in place for determining when and how many new businesses can be permitted to sell alcohol.
Officials said they would also review permitting and age requirements for servers and sellers, as well as hours of operation and minimum alcohol-to-food sales ratios for restaurants.
City officials said they would likely limit new retail sales of alcohol to the downtown commercial district and Ga. 365 corridor.
The potential changes have Lula riding the crest of a recent wave.
Gainesville, for example, has rewritten large sections of its alcohol ordinance in the last two years, striking outdated laws, amending enforcement measures and legalizing new activities, such as the sale of growlers, or craft beer to-go.
Lula officials said they might consider some of Gainesville’s changes when it comes to consumption, but don’t expect its ordinance to mirror the city to the south.
Promoting new business, streamlining permitting and eliminating outdated restrictions, as Gainesville has done, comes with a precedent.
Lula officials acknowledged that they must consider how changes now might open the way for additional alcohol sales later.
“It deserves a lot of thought,” Chandler said.