The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority decided to weigh in on the liquor-by-the-drink issue on Monday afternoon, voting unanimously to ask the Board of Commissioners to put the issue on the November 4 ballot.
BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, a member of the IDA, said the commissioners will take up the issue at their meeting next Tuesday night and then vote on whether to put it on the ballot at the meeting on Aug. 5.
In the end, it decided that it wanted to make the case that a “healthy, growing restaurant community” is important to economic development in the county. The unstated assumption was that liquor-by-the-drink is crucial for the health of the restaurant community.
In the short video below, Angela Helwig, IDA secretary, reads the motion, made by IDA member Ed Perkins, to her right. Rick Waller, chair, is on the left.
Kay Keller Raised Issue
Kay Keller, president of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the IDA, brought the issue before the body on Monday with her report on a survey the Chamber conducted of its members.
That survey showed the Chamber members want the issue on the ballot.
The Chamber has sent its own letter calling for a vote to the BOC, and Keller suggested the IDA might add its support to the Chamber effort.
County Attorney Daniel Haygood said the IDA could take a stand, but the “question you have to address is whether the IDA wants to get involved” with the issue.
No one seemed to have any serious reservations about getting involved, and the dominant question was about the language.
Davis abstained in the vote because he is on the Commission, to which the resolution was addressed.
Haygood said he expected the liquor-by-the-drink ordinance to be very similar to the existing ordinance for the sale of beer and wine in restaurants in the county.
The county currently has a map restricting where licenses can be issued.
It also requires that 75 percent of the sales in the restaurant with the beer and wine licenses has to be for food.
Haygood acknowledged that his expectation could be wrong and that the BOC will have to decide on the type of ordinance it wants to draft if it goes forward with the referendum.
Any ordinance passed by the BOC will affect only the unincorporated areas of the county. The county’s four cities have control over alcoholic sales in their jurisdictions.
(I did not attend the meeting on Monday. Sarah Bell did and gave me a video recording she made of the session.)