City Commission extends alcoholic beverage ordinance, face covering ordinanceDecatur City Hall.
Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission extended the temporary off-premise alcoholic beverage ordinance, extended the face covering ordinance, extended the city’s pandemic leave policy, and more during Tuesday’s meeting. The meeting was held on Tuesday evening due to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, Jan. 18.
In the meeting’s public comments section, Commissioners heard from local business owners and employees who advocated for the renewal of the alcoholic beverage ordinance, sometimes referred to as the open container ordinance.
Stephanie Castellucci, the owner of Iberian Pig, spoke in favor of the ordinance and said patrons have been respectful of it.
Michael Gallagher, a partner at Leon’s Full Service and Brickstore Pub, said he was appreciative of both the alcoholic beverage ordinance as well as the face covering ordinance.
“Something that alludes to an open container might seem out of place, I think it’s a very pro-business idea at large … in a season when we’re all striving to be socially distanced and to be safe,” said Gallagher, speaking of the economic benefits of the ordinance. “If we are not striving to get back some of what we lost [during the pandemic] we are failing, but we should do that in a safe way.”
“We are not particularly interested in pushing the envelope on dining indoors, so open container encourages outdoor gathering, spend some money and support local businesses,” said Gallagher.
Sean Crotty, the owner and operator of Kelly’s Market, spoke in favor of the ordinance and said it allows for people to patronize downtown businesses.
Cady Perez, a general manager at Iberian Pig, said, “the open container ordinance has really helped us in these last couple months,” and called it “an excellent opportunity to do something different when it’s been such a year of monotony.”
The City Commission began the meeting by extending the city’s face covering ordinance, which is reviewed on a monthly basis, to February 16.
“Occasionally there are complaints related to non-compliance with the ordinance. City Hall then reaches out to business owners and stresses the importance of compliance — remaining vigilant even as this pandemic drags on,” said City Manager Andrea Arnold. “In some very few instances do the police get involved. We’re handling it with city staff and with community and economic development reaching out to business staff.”
“There are some businesses that do not consistently do a very good job with this, in terms of actually enforcing the ordinance inside … I think it’s important that we address the bad apples,” said George Dusenbury.
Arnold said they have not issued any citations or fines, just two written warnings for the same business. Arnold encouraged people to contact her by email at email@example.com if they need to report businesses being non-compliant with the face covering ordinance.
Additionally, Commissioner Kelly Walsh said she had heard from an Emory Decatur Hospital physician’s assistant who works in an emergency room setting that he had only treated three flu cases in the ER this season, which Walsh felt was a result of compliance with mask-wearing. Walsh pointed out that successful public health measures are often challenging because they require measuring the absence of something.
“Our zip code has fared much better than other zip codes” in terms of COVID-19 according to the DeKalb Health website, said Mayor Garrett. She also feels that this is a result of compliance with the ordinance.
The municipal election qualifying fees were approved by the City Commission. This year’s city elections will be held on Nov. 2, 2021. A public notice about the election will be posted on the city’s website before Feb. 1.
The qualifying fee for a City Commission post is $360.00 and the qualifying fee for a Board of Education post is $35.00.
Commissioner Mayer asked why the difference in fees was so great. City Clerk Meredith Roark explained that the fee is three percent of a member’s salary, and that the Board of Education “gets more of a stipend than a salary.”
Commissioner Mayer inquired if there was a way candidates who might find the fee prohibitive could waive the qualifying fee.
Roarke said they would be able to fill out a “pauper’s affidavit.”
“Hate the name, love the concept,” said Commissioner Mayer.
In discussing the alcoholic beverage ordinance, Commissioner Mayer says she still has the same concerns about the ordinance from the last meeting.
She suggested that one way to avoid making the public uneasy would be to avoid perceived congestion by extending the hours of the ordinance, so people would have more time to visit businesses.
“If we don’t extend it beyond Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evening, could we extend it into the daytime to allow individuals to spread out the frequency of going to pick up food, beverages, walk around?”
Mayer also expressed concern about businesses being asked to pay for the green cups or wristbands that are part of the ordinance. City Manager Arnold clarified that they do not intend to pass on that charge to the businesses
“I have not observed large gatherings or large groups of people,” said Mayor Garrett about Downtown Decatur. “It has not been my observation that it has caused a great deal of crowding or social gathering.”
Mayor Garrett agreed that they should consider changes to the ordinance in the future, but for now, the ordinance has been extended in its current state until April 18 at 1:00 a.m.
In other business, the City Commission approved a $42,667 change order for construction of the city’s fiber-optic network, bringing the total contract amount to $2,065,137.
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