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Clarkston City Council defers late night alcohol sales ordinance

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Clarkston City Council defers late night alcohol sales ordinance

Clarkston City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — The Clarkston City Council, at its March 5 regular meeting, deferred an ordinance to allow late-night sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises subject to certain conditions.

The matter was deferred to a city council meeting in May.

In 2019, the city enacted an ordinance allowing alcohol sales on the premises of “bona fide restaurants,” which are required to, among other things, serve at least two meals a day during specified time windows and earn at least 51% of their gross receipts from their sale of food. In 2021, due to noise and other complaints toward some of these businesses, the ordinance was repealed, and the alcohol sales were cut back from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Councilmember Awet Eyasu is pushing for the ordinance.

The Ponce Sports Lounge, the restaurant currently receiving most of the complaints, was the sole business asked to speak and answer questions about the ordinance during the city council’s Feb. 27 work session.

Multiple Clarkston and Stone Mountain residents offered public comments on March 5, with a fairly even split of those against the ordinance and those for it.

Clarkston resident Amy Medford stated that, if the ordinance were to be passed, “Businesses…will only follow [these rules] if the city sits on them…There is poor business-community relations in Clarkston.”

Resident Michel Marcuse accused the Ponce Sports Lounge of “gaming the system” by operating a “ghost kitchen” (Ajay’s Kitchen) that sells food exclusively through online delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash. The address for Ajay’s Kitchen, while sharing the same address as the Ponce Sports Lounge, appears to have a secondary location in Atlanta where delivery services pick up their orders.

Through this, Marcuse alleged, the Ponce Sports Lounge has been able to meet its 51% food sales requirement without actually operating a large portion of its food sales from within the city of Clarkston.

Other complaints were raised about noise level and late-night patrons driving under the influence on their way home, running into peoples’ trash bins and mailboxes.

Those in support of the ordinance defended the Ponce Sports Lounge, describing it as a “hub for connection in Clarkston.” A large portion of the Ponce Sports Lounge’s patrons consists of multicultural, lower-income refugees who work late and irregular hours. The ordinance would provide them with more time to relax and unwind after a long day of work.

Tesfamariyam Wegayehu, the general manager of the Ponce Sports Lounge, claimed to not know about any complaints or violations.

“The accusation is wrong,” Wegayehu said. “Nobody came and said a word…there’s kind of a bias to me.”

Other members of the community expressed concerns that many workers would not be able to earn enough to make rent without the extra hours.

After hearing public comments, the council moved to defer discussion of the ordinance to its May city council meeting. Eyasu, though initially for deferring until April, consented to a 60-day work period instead, to review the legality of the ordinance and make any necessary amendments to its language.

Eyasu’s desired updates to the ordinance include limiting businesses to a one-month deadline to apply for longer hours, as well as stating that failure to comply with the ordinance will result in consequences ranging from a verbal warning to the revoking of the business’s liquor license entirely.

“This ordinance is not about any specific business, period,” Eyasu declared.

In other business:

– The consent agenda and all its items were passed. This included:

– A proclamation designating March as “Women’s History Month”.

–A resolution authorizing an agreement with Penate Consulting, LLC for professional services for an Interim City Clerk position in the amount of $5,000 monthly.

– Approving the City Services Agreement with Amani Women Center to provide a Workforce Development Program beginning in 2023 – 2024, funded through the ARPA grant in the amount $82,800.

– Approving the City Services Agreement with the Veterans & Community Outreach Foundation (VCOF) to provide services and programs to Clarkston veterans residents in 2024 funded through the ARPA grant in the amount $6,742.58.

– Approving an agreement with Clarkston Development Foundation, Inc. for the Tell Me A Story Program, funded through the General Fund (Community Action Budget FY 2024) in the amount of $7,000.

– Approving an agreement with Clarkston Development Foundation, Inc. for the Clarkston Early Learning Task Force, funded through the General Fund (Community Action Budget FY 2024) in the amount of $10,000.

– Approving an ordinance approving deannexation of parcel 18 095 09 008 at 1078 Nielsen Dr.

– Approving an ordinance approving deannexation of parcel 18 095 09 009 at 1086 Nielsen Dr.

– Approving the SPLOST II – Mell Ave at CSX Operational & Safety Improvement Project.

– Approving the resolution declaring results of the SPLOST II Election.

– Defering the list of SPLOST II Projects to be considered over the next three years to a Special Called Meeting with the Transportation and Environment Committee and the Housing and Infrastructure Committee to consider the amount for a potential bond issue.

– Approving an ordinance amending Article IV of Chapter 11 of the City Code regarding regulation of bona fide coin-operated amusement machines; to reduce distance restrictions for licensed establishments; to require that applicants for new coin-operated amusement machine licenses provide a survey with their application; and for other purposes.

– The council approved the City Services Agreement with Clarkston Community Center to provide ESL classes to Clarkston residents in 2024, funded through the ARPA grant for $40,000.

– The council voted to approve the adoption of an ordinance amending the city charter to authorize the city manager to purchase certain goods and services and to enter into certain contracts on behalf of the city. Since this is a change to the city’s charter, it requires two votes. The ordinance will be considered for its second adoption at the council’s April regular meeting.

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