City of Savannah holding feedback sessions on alcohol ordinance

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The city of Savannah expects to have a new set of liquor laws by summer. For local bars and restaurants, the hope is that means fewer hassles and lower fees.

Right now, that debate includes two public feedback sessions at the Savannah Civic Center. It's a new way of thinking that could cut down on much time spent trying to resolve alcohol license issues for business owners. Tuesday, the city continued with its public feedback sessions as officials wind down the time to finalize revisions to the alcohol ordinance.

One option presented would require background checks through the city, and bar owners weren't happy with that revision.

"What happens there is that the employee may feel dissuaded by that or have personal issues about that, especially when the city right now cannot back up a justification as to why you need a background check," said bar owner, Trina Brown.

Trina owns The Rail Pub. For the most part, she was pleased with the notes from the meeting.

"Mostly, just having the mutual dialogue is very beneficial, and building relationships between business owners and the city," she said.

As the process continues to move forward, many people hope it remains transparent.

"As long as there is an open appeal process. If somebody is denied and wants to appeal it, then they go directly to the city council, so they still have that level of access if they want to obtain an alcoholic beverage license," said Mike Vaquer, Georgia Restaurant Association.

This isn't something city leaders are just trying out. They've seen this type of action done other places.

"That in other communities across the state, they do the similar type of administrative boards with very much success, so it's a best practice that we should be looking at, and we assess that every once in a while and we feel as though it may be something of value to bring to the table," said Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design.

City leaders are pushing for final revisions of the ordinance to be done soon so it can be presented in a city council workshop on April 26. The first reading would be May 10 and the second would be May 24.

"We know that we're trying to get people to work, join the workforce, and this may be for reasons that we don't understand - stopping them from doing that," said Michael Owens, President, CEO, Tourism Leadership Council.

If you missed the first meeting, don't worry. Another one is scheduled to happen at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Savannah Civic Center.

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