For years the alcohol licensing and renewal processes in Doraville were very business-friendly, said Gerald Benda, an attorney for Far West Rodeo, an entertainment facility in the city.
Now, the city is giving a new message to the owners of businesses that sell or serve alcohol: “Go away. We don’t want you here,” Benda said.
Benda said Far West Rodeo, a 4,000-person occupancy concert facility, could be put out of business by the ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 1. Far West Rodeo, which has been in business for 20 years, attracts national and international music acts, according to Benda.
The ordinance, passed in November, states that “No license for the sale of malt beverages, distilled spirits or wine by the drink for consumption on the premises shall be issued to or renewed for any establishment unless the establishment has adequate, paved, on-premises parking facilities for its patrons.”
Far West Rodeo, which does not have enough on-premises parking for its larger events, has contracts with adjacent businesses to use their parking lots.
“We won’t be able to get a license,” Benda said. “It’s going to end up costing the city because they’re going to lose money.”
Benda said he is hopeful that the ordinance is still a work in progress and that the council will amend it to allow Far West Rodeo, which last year had 25 events, to remain in business.
Another aspect of the ordinance that is troubling to business owners is the requirement for all employees who dispense, sell, serve, stock, handle, take orders for or mix alcoholic beverages to have a permit. Owners object to the need for employees who stock and sell alcohol in grocery stores to have permits.
“Extending this requirement to include supermarkets is highly unusual, costly and unnecessary,” said Harold Shinn, owner of the Buford Highway Farmers Market at 5600 Buford Highway in Doraville.
The employee permit requirement would add $5,800 in fees to his renewal application, Shinn said. Turnover is usually high in the entry-level positions that would now need the employee permits and based on last year’s data, it would cost the farmers market an estimated $11,500 to be in compliance.
Shinn said he would have to pay approximately $20,000 a year to sell beer and wine in his store, which he said has been free of alcohol-related violations for several years.
The ordinance states that everyone who receives an alcoholic beverage license or an employee permit must be of good moral character and cannot have been convicted of the following misdemeanors in the two years prior to the filing of such application: noise, sign code offenses, driving under the influence, fighting words, abusive language, providing false identification, indecency, obscenity, littering, nuisance, bad checks or stalking.
Council member Pam Fleming said the alcohol ordinance, which took several months to develop, contains several problems.
“We did come up with a document that is palatable, however corrections need to be made,” Fleming said. “We need to take a major look at the current alcohol ordinance.”
Although the council was unable to agree on any changes to the ordinance, the members were successful in getting rid of a 48-page permit application that business owners said requested too much information. The council voted to use the much shorter application that was used last year.
“We don’t need to know what school they went to, how many children they have and what their names and birthdates are,” Fleming said. “I’m not sure why we’re using those types of questions to license.”
Council member Karen Puchata said she was in favor of much of the extensive data collected in the forms, because the city has a history of problems with alcohol-related establishments, including suggestive dancing by underage girls, nudity at clubs and DJs announcing backroom cocaine sales.
“Not all the information we collect is for the police department,” Puchata said. “I want as much information as possible about who is funding these clubs, who is the money behind the clubs and who is responsible for everything that is going on in the clubs."