Customers of Richmond Hill restaurants may be able to purchase alcohol while dining as soon as Nov. 9.
Richmond Hill City Council had the first reading of the ordinance during the Oct. 21 council meeting and they will officially vote on it at the Nov. 4 council meeting.
The ordinance also carries a new law aimed at reducing alcohol sales to minors within the city.
If it is approved, the ordinance will go into effect immediately. This follows a vote from city residents in September, which ended up with 535 votes in favor of the referendum and 239 against it.
The referendum was brought to the table in March by six local restaurant owners – representing Molly MacPherson’s, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Augie’s, Glazer’s Pub, Tequila’s Sunset and Black Angus Steakhouse.
Beef’s owner Doug Goolsby said the ruling couldn’t have come at a better time and should help them gain an edge over their Chatham County competitors during these harsh economic times.
"I’m excited it was done so quickly," Goolsby said. "It looks like Sunday beer sales will now be activated before NFL season ends, which should be a huge plus for us. We have the full NFL game package, which is usually a big draw for pro football fans. With the Sunday law, we’ve been doing half of what the average Beef’s does on a normal Sunday. On a NASCAR or NFL Sunday, we’ve been doing about a third. That should change in a couple weeks."
If approved, City Manager Mike Melton said, in order to sell alcohol on Sundays, restaurant owners must "apply for a special endorsement on their current alcohol license, which will cost $250." He also said they most show proof that at least 50 percent of their sales are from food purchases.
Goolsby, who attended the meeting, said the $250 will be "money well spent" and food purchases are 85 percent of the total sales at Beef’s.
After some debate, council agreed to add caterers to be eligible to register to take advantage of the Sunday law as well.
In addition to Sunday sales, the ordinance carries a new rule where employees of establishments where alcohol is sold, such as restaurants and stores, must apply for an "alcohol beverage worker’s card". The rule was brought to the table last year by police Chief Billy Reynolds.
In order to obtain an alcohol card, employees must come down to the Richmond Hill Police Department. A $10 fee must be paid and a background check will be run and a card will be denied to those who have prior felony offenses or arrests linked to drugs or alcohol. He said a law already exists that prohibits individuals with these offenses from working in an environment with alcohol sales, but, up until now, there has not been a comprehensive way to monitor this.
Reynolds said if someone is popped for any offenses in the future, a judge has the right to revoke or suspend an individual’s alcohol card.
Reynolds said other jurisdictions have similar laws, but Richmond Hill is taking it one step further by including grocery, convenience and liquor stores.
"This is way to control how alcohol is sold in the city and should help in keeping it out the hands of kids," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said, if the ordinance passes, this rule will most likely be enforced as of the first of the year.