CORNELIA – Proposed changes to Cornelia’s alcohol ordinance could change how restaurants and event centers operate in the city’s Central Business District.
“The changes to the ordinance address several items that have recently been brought to our attention by some of our business owners,” said City Manager Donald Anderson. “First, this will allow for special event facilities in the Central Business District to obtain an annual license to serve beer or wine amenity license.”
In addition, the ordinance would permit licensed catering companies to obtain a license to serve alcoholic beverages at events they cater in the city. That permit must be obtained 10 days prior to each event, and the permits would be approved by the city manager.
The third change is restaurants in the Central Business District would be able to obtain a “sidewalk café” license, allowing them to place small tables on the sidewalk adjacent to their building.
“Patrons will be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages as long as they are sitting at one of these tables,” Anderson said. “The tables cannot be too large as to obstruct the use of sidewalks by pedestrians.”
In response to a question from Ward 4 Commissioner Tony Cook, City Attorney Steve Campbell said an individual can’t purchase the desired alcohol for an event then give it to a licensed caterer.
“I think you would have to get the caterer to buy what you want for you from a distributor,” Campbell said. “That way we know what’s been brought in and purchased through the caterer. It needs to come in through the caterer.”
Caterers whose primary license is issued by a different county or city will be limited to three catered event permits in Cornelia per calendar year.
No licensed alcoholic beverage caterer may employ any person under 21 years old to dispense, serve, sell or handle alcoholic beverages at authorized catered functions.
If the caterer’s primary alcoholic beverage license is issued by another city or county, it must submit a separate report to the City of Cornelia of all alcoholic beverages transported for each event, and make report and remittance of the taxes paid related to the catered event without 30 days of the catered event.
“We posted several proposed amendments to our existing alcohol ordinance,” Anderson said. “Two of them have to do with special events. The first one allows a special events facility located in the Central Business District to obtain an alcohol serving license for events to be held in their facilities. The second one allows caterers who already serve alcohol to obtain a special permit or license from the city to be able to serve alcohol at events that they cater, and it’s not limited to just Cornelia businesses. Even if they’re in Gainesville, if they can produce a business license, they can register it much like a contractor that comes in from out of town and pays like a $25 fee to register their license to do work here.”
While not permitting people to walk around with open alcohol containers, another proposed change would allow people seated at tables outside restaurants in the Central Business District to consume alcohol.
“The other change proposed is the implementation of what they call a sidewalk café area,” Anderson said. “Again, this is in the Central Business District and it would allow restaurants to have tables set up on the sidewalk. They have to keep a 48-inch passageway, but at these tables patrons could consume alcohol.”
There are restrictions on the location of outdoor tables under the proposed ordinance change permitting sidewalk cafes.
“It’s got to be located directly in front of their building,” Anderson said. “It can’t veer off and they are 100-percent responsible for policing that. It doesn’t allow people to stand on the sidewalk. They have to be seated at one of these café-style tables.”
City commissioners discussed the sidewalk café concept, asking whether the downtown sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate the proposed tables and still provide ADA use of the sidewalks serving the businesses.
Anderson said the StreetScape was done with the concept in mind but noted table size will be limited to ensure sidewalk usage is not impeded.
“That ordinance has been posted for public comment and if anybody has anything they would like to say about it, it’s posted at city hall Monday through Friday and they’re welcome to come in and ask any questions or give us any feedback,” Anderson said.
The ordinance changes are up for a city commission vote at the next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Cornelia Community House, 601 Wyly St., Cornelia.