New alcohol ordinance proposals could effect 500 businesses, res - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

New alcohol ordinance proposals could effect 500 businesses, residents

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The City of Savannah is proposing several changes to Savannah's alcohol ordinance. The changes will apply to nearly 500 businesses that have an alcohol license, and it could affect some more than others.

The changes were outlined at a public forum on Tuesday at the Savannah Civic Center. This is the first time in 14 years the city has made a complete revision. City officials said it is outdated.

Some of the big changes include doing away with hybrid licenses, which are for bars that are open after midnight. Officials now want what's called a late-night license instead, that would require each business to have security.

City officials also want to do away with requiring bartenders to carry bar cards, but they'll still be required to go through alcohol service training. The city also wants to expand the to-go cup ordinance to allow people to carry open containers in Forsyth Park.

Tuesday's meeting was not only filled with business owners, but also residents who have concerns.

"There was no rationale that was suggested to me that putting it in Forsyth Park, other than the city could not enforce the fact that people are drinking there now, but they aren't drinking like they are on River Street, and I think the idea that you can't enforce it, you should let it happen. That's dead wrong," said resident Bob Rosenwald.

Some businesses that have hybrid license are not happy about the possibilty of now being required to get a late-night license. It will require the business to have security on Fridays and Saturdays, the same nights police say they see most problems.

They believe requiring businesses to have security will crack down on alcohol-related offenses but business owners disagree.

"I think the only issues it's going to crack down is what happens inside of your business, not what happens outside of your business. Like the police, said most of the calls happen outside of the business, not inside," said Daniel Cloutier, Molly McPhersons Scottish Pub. 

"It's a different mentality to act as security when you're coming in and having desserts so it's really not part of what we do so that's just an unfortunate thing," said Janine Finn & Rebecca Radovich, Lulu's Chocolate Bar. 

Cracking down on underage drinking is also a priority. They are proposing anyone under the age of 21 cannot be in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol past 10 p.m. unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Many people voiced their concerns about this at Tuesday's public forum because this would mean anyone under 21 could not be at places like Applebee's after 10 p.m.

The city is also proposing getting rid of bar cards, which is a serving license for bartenders. In order to get the license, an employee has to go through alcohol service training. The city will continue to require the training but not the license.

Bar cards were implemented in 2009 as a way to crack down on underage drinking and holding the server accountable for selling alcohol to minors. The city says they don't believe the bar card initiative was keeping alcohol from minors, but business owners say the city has not provided any supporting research.

"The facts are showing right now that the bar card may or may not have deterred any underage drinking. It may or may not have deterred any offenses. You really have to look at the data to find out if it's helpful or if it's just a piece of plastic," said Vincent Zambito, owner of Bayou Cafe

This ordinance is only a proposal and city officials will not make any decisions until after they have heard from the public. They will hold another public forum on Thurs, Sept 18.

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