DEMOREST — Demorest Mayor Rick Austin maintains the city must offer the same opportunities as other jurisdictions if it wants to attract new eateries and continue its economic development.
During a called meeting Tuesday, the Demorest City Council voted to place the issue of allowing the sale of distilled spirits and the issue of Sunday alcohol sales for on-premises consumption as referendum questions on the May ballot.
That way, Austin said, members of the public get to decide how they want to see the city develop in the future.
“We’ve received two recent requests,” Austin said following the meeting. “One was from a local business, and then the other was from our downtown development authority.”
A public hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday drew no members of the public to discuss the issue.
“The council and I discussed it,” Austin said. “Tonight, although not required, we had a public hearing for this particular issue. I always think that it’s best to allow the democratic process to play itself out. Everyone will have an opportunity to voice their opinion in the ballot box.”
Councilman Bruce Harkness and Councilwoman Florence Wikle were not in attendance at Tuesday’s called meeting.
Councilman John Popham made the motion to place the referendum questions on the ballot, and Councilman Sean Moore seconded. Popham, Moore and Austin voted in favor.
“With tonight’s measure, we’ll once again allow the residents of the city of Demorest to have their voice heard, and to determine whether or not we are going to move forward with distilled spirits by the drink and on Sunday,” Austin said.
The timing of this vote is important to keep opportunities equal for businesses.
“I would like to note that Habersham County is considering this same measure, and if this should pass in Habersham County but fail in the city of Demorest, the city of Demorest would become one if not the only governmental entity inside Habersham County that excluded distilled spirits. And there are pros and cons to that particular argument on either side, but at the end of the day I think if we’re going to continue to try to develop economically everyone understands that there is no opportunity for any major restaurants to position themselves within any place that does not allow distilled spirits.”
Austin said the Ga. 365 corridor remains poised for development, noting there also is room for smaller eateries in the downtown area.
“I trust the citizens and look forward to how that ballot referendum comes out,” Austin said.