Columbus Council reviews alcohol ordinance

Moving a step closer to changing the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance gave Lynnette Gross something to smile about Tuesday as she left the Columbus Government Center.

“I commend the city for working with us in trying to revitalize Columbus,” said Gross, the president of Columbus South Inc., a group working to improve the area. “I think the ordinance as written is very fair.”

During its bi-monthly meeting, Columbus Council reviewed an ordinance that would allow traditional restaurants in areas banned under the current ordinance. If approved by the council, such restaurants would not be subjected to the 300-foot rule, a requirement that has prevented many businesses from getting an alcoholic beverage license.

Council will consider the ordinance at its next meeting on Feb. 24. A public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in the Columbus Council chambers for residents and groups to comment on the proposed changes.

Under the current ordinance, it is unlawful to issue liquor and mixed drinks beverage licenses within 600 feet and wine and beer licenses within 300 feet of the grounds of any community teen center, school, school playground or church. Changing the ordinance would allow hotels, motels or restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages with no restrictions on the distance.

Deputy City Manager David Arrington said restaurants in the area would have to collect at least 80 percent of their gross revenue from the sales of meals prepared and served on the premises.

The amendment comes a year after South Columbus businesses approached the city about alcoholic beverage licenses for businesses that don’t meet the 300-foot rules because they are located near public parks, residential homes and churches.

Richard Bishop, president of Uptown Columbus, said the ordinance is not only needed in south Columbus — there is a need downtown.

“It’s something we have been working on for months,” Bishop said.

If a restaurant wanted to get a alcoholic beverage license on 12th Street between First and Second Avenue, the current ordinance wouldn’t allow it, Bishop said.

Gross said a change in the ordinance would help Al’s Schnitzel Gasthaus, a German restaurant at 3443 Victory Drive. The business backs up to a park, preventing the business from meeting the distance requirement.

Other businesses were watching action from the council Tuesday, Gross said.

“I got a meeting this afternoon about putting in a restaurant, an upscale family restaurant,” she said. “Part hinges on what happens today. There are interested parties out there. As things stand now we have difficulty in putting in an Applebee’s.”

While most councilors support the ordinance change, Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes said he is concerned about community groups who may not be aware of the possible changes.

“We need to go to organizations and see what their concerns are,” he said.