The Columbus bridal shop owner arrested last year for serving customers 2-ounce cocktails made of champagne and orange juice will not be prosecuted.
Solicitor General Ben Richardson said Friday that Formal Elegance owner Judy Wilkinson had no criminal record and qualified for a Muscogee State Court “deferred prosecution” program in which she agreed to abide by Columbus laws and to perform 20 hours of community service for a nonprofit agency. As long as she abides by those conditions, authorities will not revive her charge of violating a city law against giving alcohol to customers in a business that has no alcohol license.
Wilkinson’s arrest sparked outrage locally from people who said undercover officers should have had more important crimes to tackle than free distribution of the drink commonly called a mimosa.
Wilkinson, who’s also a West Point, Ga., city councilwoman, was arrested and handcuffed during a police raid on her bridal shop Nov. 14, after an officer posing as a customer shopping for a tuxedo was served one of the drinks. Her attorney, Ben Wilcox, said after a Columbus Recorder’s Court hearing on the case that the way police behaved, ‘they might as well have been busting down the door to a meth house.”
News of a city law prohibiting possessing alcohol in an unlicensed business caused other merchants to cease serving drinks at their holiday parties last Christmas.
Police Chief Ricky Boren said after Wilkinson’s arrest that police treated her just like anyone else accused of an alcohol violation.
According to the Columbus city attorney’s office, Wilkinson broke two laws, a city ordinance and a state statute.
The city ordinance says it’s illegal “for any person, corporation, partnership or other legal entity to possess, sell, or possess for the purpose of sale at any business location ... any alcoholic beverage where the person does not have a valid alcoholic beverage license.”
The state law says no one may “manufacture, distribute, sell, handle, or possess for sale, or otherwise deal in alcoholic beverages” without first obtaining “all applicable licenses required by this title.” It further states that once a license is obtained, the business owner “shall display the license prominently at all times on the premises.”
Wilkinson declined to comment on the case Friday.