The Hinesville City Council adopted a revised alcohol ordinance during its meeting Thursday. The new ordinance incorporates three amendments, including the sale of package alcohol on Sunday; issuance of an alcoholic-beverage license based on food sales; and the distance an establishment selling alcohol can be from libraries, churches, schools or residences.
The amended ordinance was introduced by City Manager Billy Edwards, who briefly explained the history behind some of the changes. He said the sale of package alcohol was in response to a referendum approved in November 2013. The new ordinance allows for Sunday sales from 12:30-11:30 p.m.
The owners of two local restaurants addressed the council last summer, asking for a change to the ordinance. Both owners said they believed an alcoholic-beverage license greatly would enhance their businesses, which were too close to residentially-zoned property to qualify for a license prior to the change. The change now allows for a license if the establishment is 25 feet from the property line of residentially-zoned property or 120 feet from a residence on residentially-zoned property.
Chris Hicks, owner of Chris’ Curbside Grill, spoke again to the council Thursday, just before the council adjourned.
“I want to thank you all for making this change,” Hicks said. “I also want you to know I will not turn (my restaurant) into a club. I will not turn it into a bar.”
City Attorney Linnie Darden III explained a third amendment was no real change. He said paragraph 3-103 still requires “the sale of any alcoholic beverages for consumption on-premises is permitted when said establishments derive at least 60 percent of their total gross revenue” from the sale of food. The only thing changed was a reference to Frank Cochran Drive to Veterans Parkway, Darden said.
Darden said an addition was made to paragraph 3-28 in reference hours of operation. Local law enforcement said it was difficult to tell if an establishment was operating after closing hours. When they would see people inside the establishment, they would say they were employees. The change now requires all employees except the owner/manager to leave the premises after closing hours.
The council also agreed to make the effective date of the amended ordinance Feb. 1, 2014.
In other business, the council approved a rezoning petition to change 1.7 acres of land with a large building from general-commercial district to highway-commercial district and allow the property owners a special permit to use the property as a church. The property on E.G. Miles Parkway is within the vicinity of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Mayor Jim Thomas asked Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission planner Gabriele Hartage if a church is allowed close to an establishment that sells alcohol.
“A church can move next to an establishment that sells alcohol, but an establishment that sells alcohol cannot move next to a church,” Hartage said.
Property owner Diane Curry told the council her plans for the church were to provide a place of worship as well as a family center, where young people can come learn about the Lord.
Councilman David Anderson and Councilman Keith Jenkins expressed concerns about allowing a special permit for a church. Anderson noted that the council had allowed special permits before, and the church soon began complaining about the noise at the bar next door. Jenkins noted Curry had expressed a desire for young people to learn right and wrong, and questioned whether this was possible so close to an establishment that sells alcohol.
The council approved both the zoning change and the special-permit request with LCPC’s condition that the special permit was only for this applicant.