City alcohol law drafts would limit under-21 entry

From the Herald 912-489-9454

Statesboro City Council received two versions of a draft of a new Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance from its attorney Tuesday night and released them to the public.
Version A would prohibit people under 21 years old from entering an establishment that “by name, common usage, knowledge and/or understanding … constitutes a bar, night club, lounge or similar business.”
Version B, labeled “More Permissive for Those Under 21 Years of Age,” would not prohibit younger adults from entering bars and nightclubs outright. But it would require bars that wish to admit patrons under 21 to obtain an Under 21         Permit and adhere to certain rules, identifying all patrons under that age with a distinctive wristband.
Both versions include references to state law to track with its current or future provisions. In any case, 18 remains the statewide minimum drinking age. But a bill awaiting the governor’s signature, after passing the Georgia General Assembly by large margins, would raise the age for entry to 21 for bars, defined as places that derive 75 percent or more of their revenue from the sale of alcohol.
As requested by the mayor and council at their previous meeting, City Attorney Alvin Leaphart brought copies of both versions to Tuesday’s meeting and gave these to the council members.
“We ought to take these and decide how you would like to move forward with them, if at all,” Leaphart said.
When Mayor Jan Moore asked if the ordinance drafts would now be available to the public, Leaphart said the council would have to decide.
“This is stuff I’ve worked on, and I guess it’s not publicly available at this point, but it’s really up to council to decide whether it wants to release these documents to the public or not,” he said.
Councilman John Riggs said he wanted the drafts posted on the city’s website for public access.
“I mean, I think you’re presenting these documents at a public meeting,” said Councilman Phil Boyum.
Councilman Will Britt said council members would be talking to the public about them, anyway.
But Councilman Gary Lewis said, “I wouldn’t right now,” to releasing the drafts.
“An option would be to look at it for the next two weeks, and the next meeting put them up on the website,” Moore said.
Lewis agreed, and Moore said no motion would be needed to do that.
However, the Statesboro Herald’s reporter asked whether the mayor and council members were “saying that you’re not going to make this document publicly available at this point,” when members had requested the drafts at the previous meeting and were now holding them in public view.
The reporter asserted a belief that these were already public documents.
However, Leaphart said he often provides documents to the council “as the attorney-client work product” and that these are “generally exempt from disclosure under the Open Records Act.”
Moore then said she saw Leaphart’s point that it was council’s decision whether to release documents he provided them as his client but that she saw no reason not to release the drafts before an announced work session.
On a motion from Boyum, seconded by Riggs and with Britt joining, the council released the documents to the public on an apparent 3-0 voice vote. Asked afterward, Lewis said he had not voiced a vote either way, and Councilman Travis Chance was absent.
The council set 5 p.m. May 13 as the time for a work session, open to the public, on the possible new Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance.

Stacy George

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