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Decatur says it can allow grocery stores to sell liquor, Dealers Association disagrees

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Decatur says it can allow grocery stores to sell liquor, Dealers Association disagrees

Decatur City Hall.

Decatur City Hall.

A legal battle may be brewing over the city of Decatur’s decision to allow grocery stores to sell liquor.

At its meeting on June 19, the City Commission approved the changes. Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne, who oversees economic development for the city, told Decaturish the changes are intended to lure a “high-end market” to the city’s downtown. She did not name the potential tenant or the potential location.

Before the changes, liquor could only be sold in a liquor store. Under the changes the City Commission approved hard  liquor could be sold in stores – along with beer and wine – that have 50 percent or more of the floor space dedicated to the sale of food and food related items.

But can the city actually do this?

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Menne thinks the city can.

“There are certain provisions within state law that do control what we can do,” Menne told the City Commission. “An awful lot of flexibility is passed along to local cities. Our city attorney has reviewed this ordinance. Everything we’re putting before you tonight is within the allowed power of the city to control.”

The Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association, which represents liquor store owners, disagrees.

Assistant Director Stony McGill told Decaturish that any move to license a grocery store to sell liquor would be opposed at the state level.

“It flies in the face of state law,” McGill said. “We run into this from time to time where someone on a local level will have some idea. It’s not going to clear muster with the state.”

He said there are “enough interested parties” to make sure any license to allow a grocery store to sell liquor in Decatur is blocked at the state level.

“It’s sealed up pretty tight, and there were changes [in the law] a couple of years ago defining what a liquor store was,” McGill said. “There’s a lot of things standing in the way on the state level.”

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