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Restaurant owners unhappy with proposed changes to alcohol ordinance

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Elaine Sheridan D’Arcy is concerned that her alcohol licensing fees could increase just six months into opening her Irish pub and restaurant downtown.

“I just want a chance to survive downtown,” said D’Arcy, who owns O’Donovans at the corner of 10th and Broad streets. “I’m just upset that they’re not helping small business. Just give us an opportunity.”

A slew of changes are proposed to the city’s alcohol ordinance. Among them, license holders face an annual increase of about 10 percent, a new late penalty fee for failing to renew on time and a new option for restaurant owners to switch to operating as a bar after 9 p.m.

If approved by city commissioners next month, the updated ordinance also would follow Savannah, Ga., in allowing Augusta bars to sell alcohol on Sunday during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, defined as March 16-18.

Other changes include allowing liquor stores to open on Thanksgiving Day, although packaged alcohol sales wouldn’t be allowed on Christmas Day, and requiring restaurants with an alcohol license to close at the same time as bars or clubs, at 3 a.m. Monday-Friday and 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

The proposed fee schedule shows that for beer and wine licenses, bar and restaurant owners will go from paying $625-$665 to $690-$735, depending on the occupancy capacity of the establishment. Liquor licensing would be bumped up from $3,115-$3,330 to $3,430-$3,665, according to a copy of the proposed ordinance.

Licenses for retail beer and wine sales would increase from $665 to $735, while a retail liquor license would rise from $3,330 to $3,665.

“We were thinking while we’re making these (other) changes, let’s look at the fees so that’s what brought it about,” said Augusta Planning and Development Deputy Director Rob Sherman, who noted that the city last raised licensing fees in 2011. “We looked at some of the larger cities and we found that if we went up a little bit, it would be comparable to them. We’ll be at the upper-end, but not the most expensive.”

Added to the ordinance, license holders who do not file a renewal application before the last business day of the year will face a late fee of at least $300, or 20 percent of their annual license fee, whichever amount is greater. If the application hasn’t been filed with the Planning and Development Department by Jan. 31, the operator will need to receive a new license.

Also new is a “hybrid” restaurant concept derived from a similar model in Savannah. The designation gives restaurateurs a choice of eliminating food sales after 9 p.m. and instead operating as a bar or club.

After paying a $500 annual regulatory fee, the owner could charge a cover fee to patrons for live entertainment and contests and could increase their capacity by clearing out tables and chairs. No one under age 21 would be allowed in the “hybrid” restaurant after 9 p.m., and a sign must be posted at the entrance.

“I think it’s just another way for the county to get more money, and the only one it’s going to hurt is the local average Joe business guy,” said Jody Dickson, a consultant for Andrew’s Place, an upscale bar and grill off Furys Ferry Road. “The corporations – it ain’t going to bother their bottom lines one little bit.”

Andrew’s Place opens for dinner and often features live bands. Dickson is worried the restaurant will be forced into becoming a “hybrid” and paying the extra fee for any large acts booked at the Augusta spot.

“I’d have to leave that option open to be able to charge one in case I brought in a bigger name in entertainment,” he said, adding that the owners already pay about $6,000 annually for the restaurant’s alcohol licenses in addition to a $120 dance hall permit.

“All that adds up,” he said of the proposed fee increases. “It’s hard out there already.”

D’Arcy said she can’t imagine a situation that would prompt her to change how she operates O’Donovans.

“That’s not an advantage to any of us, because downtown is a foodie district not a big drinking district,” D’Arcy said. “Most people are coming down here with the intention of eating.”

Sherman said restaurant owners who opt for the “hybrid” destination would be required to register, which would help the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office better monitor after-hour establishments. He expects only a few local restaurants would adopt the designation.

Sherman said two staffers from the Sheriff’s Office researched how the concept worked in Savannah and discovered it’s been well-received there since the city council passed it in 2008.

Blake Benthall, who manages Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub & Grill in downtown Savannah, said most people in the city didn’t even notice a difference when the policy was implemented.

“Pretty much anything you can find on River Street is basically going to be a hybrid restaurant,” he said.

But D’Arcy pointed out that the type of business that Savannah attracts is much different than what Augusta does.

“Savannah is a destination,” she said. “We’re just not a destination yet.”

Although three public hearings were held in late July, Sherman said he hasn’t received feedback from local license holders.

The proposed ordinance changes are scheduled to go to Augusta’s Public Services Committee on Aug. 25 and to city commissioners on Sept. 2. If approved, the changes would become effective Dec. 1.

For Jeremy LaFontaine, the owner of Joe’s Underground Cafe, his concern is that raising the city’s alcohol license fees will deter other businesses from opening in Augusta.

“I definitely would hate to see it increase,” said LaFontaine. “Eventually, you’re just going to push people out of the market.”

WHAT’S NEXT

Proposed changes to the alcohol ordinance are set to go before the city’s Public Services Committee on Aug. 25 and to the Augusta Commission on Sept. 2.

If approved, the changes would become effective Dec. 1.

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jimmymac
43300
Points
jimmymac 08/13/14 - 08:37 pm
1
0
Taxes
Unpublished

This is just the start. Hold onto your wallets with the Democrat regime running things. Detroit light.

griff6035
4159
Points
griff6035 08/13/14 - 10:01 pm
14
0
Fee increases

Up Up an run them away, just so you can be at the upper-end when will it ever stop, when will it end, when there are no establiments to increase fees on, because you know it all trickles down to the patron.

Young Fred
18262
Points
Young Fred 08/13/14 - 10:27 pm
13
1
License fees

Vs taxes.

That way the 'crats can claim there's no tax increase.

Matters not because the consumer bears the charge regardless. Great going Augusta, we can claim to be at the high end!

bdouglas
5447
Points
bdouglas 08/13/14 - 11:16 pm
8
0
What are those dollar amounts

What are those dollar amounts for? Per month? Per year? Per quarter? Would be helpful information to know...

Also, ""Savannah is a destination,” she said. “We’re just not a destination yet.”"

Somebody's not gonna like that assessment...

dichotomy
34747
Points
dichotomy 08/13/14 - 11:47 pm
12
1
"We’ll be at the upper-end,

"We’ll be at the upper-end, but not the most expensive"

Yeh, might as well get the liquor licenses at the "upper-end" with our property taxes. I guess they are trying to pretend we are a "real" city with a "real" prosperous business environment and "real" prosperous citizens.

"Let's get some mo' revenoo".......get used to it with the crew of clods we've got running this dump. Time to close your doors and move across the line and leave them holding this empty bag. It's only going to get worse....much worse. The upper-end of taxes and fees...the LOWEST-END for services and county wide investment. Suck it up South Ricmond County....at least you are on the "upper-end" of SOMETHING...even if it is only taxes and fees. The CLOWNS are loose and have taken control of the funny farm.

Proud2Serve
234
Points
Proud2Serve 08/14/14 - 12:53 am
13
1
Project Jackson

With the stupidity coming out of the RC Commission of late, I predict Project Jackson will become the entertainment destination of the CSRA.

"We aren't a destination yet" Savannah is a PORT CITY. It's on the OCEAN. Augusta is not a destination because there isnt a reason for it to be. Raising taxes on the already struggling small business owners (Thanks Operation Thunder) will not help make it one.

Young Fred
18262
Points
Young Fred 08/14/14 - 03:38 am
9
0
dichtomy

""Let's get some mo' revenoo".......get used to it with the crew of clods we've got running this dump. Time to close your doors and move across the line and leave them holding this empty bag."

We'll welcome you with open arms. We ain't perfect. Could use a guy like you to plant a little fire under our sleepy "leaders".

Did you see the palace built on the end of the bypass in Aiken? Just so happened to coincide with request for needed money in the school system.

I walked into that place and was intimidated. Not trying to brag, but I'm not easily intimidated. Heck the foyer was half the size of my sons house.

They are oh so proud of their palace! The bureaucrats are smiling and helpful for a change. They're happy, happy, happy in their new digs. Of course that won't last for long.

I'm sorry, but begging for more money while that monstrosity stands is just a little too much to swallow.

ColCo
873
Points
ColCo 08/14/14 - 05:39 am
2
0
Young Fred

I was told that to save money, the new court house in North Augusta was privately funded and leased back to the city, is that not true?

Riverman1
87535
Points
Riverman1 08/14/14 - 05:43 am
6
1
Hay Street in Fayetteville

Careful. Does anyone remember Hay Street in Fayetteville, NC that was lined with bars and strip joints? I admit hitting them more than once when I was at Ft. Bragg. It was so bad that most of it was torn down in the 80s and made into parks before it was revitalized with decent, mainstream establishments and upscale apartments. Be careful turning restaurants into bars after 9 p.m. and encouraging more flat out bars. There is a negative side.

iaaffg
2994
Points
iaaffg 08/14/14 - 06:04 am
7
0
'augusta is not a destination

'augusta is not a destination city': boy, they hit that one right on the head. it surely is not a destination city, unless you happen to be unlucky enough to get stationed at fort gordon or are from out in the boonies and enroll in the combined uni. poor ole augusta....trying to be like a real city, and failing at every turn. unless those who vote will wake up and smell the coffee and see the forest for the trees and grasp the bigger picture, they will always be 'poor ole augusta', living off that one week of fame a year in april.

nanowerx
1334
Points
nanowerx 08/14/14 - 06:18 am
5
1
....

I am finding it difficult to understand why one couldn't sell alcohol before on St Patricks day or Christmas day. How arbitrary and completely against the will of the people who overwhelmingly voted to allow liquor/beer sales every day of the week.

nanscc@bellsouth.net
19
Points
nanscc@bellsouth.net 08/14/14 - 06:42 am
5
0
Remember it Voters

Up, Up, and Away. The next time Augusta-Richmond County voters drive to their voting stations thick of what your representative has done for you, not what you can do for your representative. Do not for get your family depend on you, not your Rep.

justthefacts
22990
Points
justthefacts 08/14/14 - 07:03 am
6
0
New record

iaaffg, that might be a new record for worn out cliques. "wake up", "smell coffee", "see the forest" and the "bigger picture". All in one sentence! Good job.

restguy
383
Points
restguy 08/14/14 - 07:07 am
5
0
Raised the property taxes on

Us homeowners...business owners are next...

nocnoc
45437
Points
nocnoc 08/14/14 - 07:44 am
6
0
I quit reading as soon as I saw

...follow Savannah, Ga., in allowing Augusta bars to sell alcohol on Sunday during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, defined as March 16-18....

Just another UN-original idea copied from another city.

Come on Commissioners between the 10 of y'all there must be a way
to screw in a Lightblub.

Little Lamb
47267
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/14 - 08:34 am
5
1
Destination

Elaine Sheridan D’Arcy, owner of O’Donovans in downtown Augusta, said, “Savannah is a destination. We’re just not a destination yet.”

Yeah, but as soon as that guy from Alabama repairs the destroyed wall and chimney on the Gooddale House, Augusta will at last have become a destination.

Riverman1
87535
Points
Riverman1 08/14/14 - 09:32 am
7
2
Whaddaya Mean Not A Tourist Designation???

What do you mean Augusta is not a designation? I thought 1.5 million people came to Augusta to walk on the Riverwalk?

grinder48
2031
Points
grinder48 08/14/14 - 11:06 am
0
0
More Taxes
Unpublished

Every time we turn around, ARC wants more taxes ... for substandard and, in certain cases, non-existent services.

And BTW Jenna Martin, "A slew of changes" is so sophomoric. How about "Numerous" or "A number" or anything more befitting formal writing on some level greater than high school.

Butterman
3690
Points
Butterman 08/14/14 - 11:36 am
0
2
Liquor Licenses
Unpublished

I would rather see the fees on selling liquor raised than raising everyone's property taxes. As I see it, liquor consumption and these nightclubs contribute disproportionately to incidents where police have to be called. Just look at all of the fights and incidents downtown.. all around bar closing time. Let the bar owners pay a little more for the mess they help create, instead of other small business owners and property owners shouldering the burden. One thing is for sure, Augusta is not hurting for bars.

deestafford
29071
Points
deestafford 08/14/14 - 11:44 am
6
0
So, let me get this straight...

So, let me get this straight. We want new business of all types downtown? We want more locals to go downtown because we don't get that many tourists/outsiders year around? Right so far?

So, how do we do that? Raise fees and taxes on downtown business owners so they will have to raise prices while trying to increase down down customers?

And this course of action comes from what business school?

countyman
20724
Points
countyman 08/14/14 - 11:49 am
2
6
Facts

The sky is falling in Augusta every day according to the same few posters... The city has the second fastest growing tech sector in Georgia, but some people want to portray that Augusta is doing so bad..

Savannah is more of an tourist destination compared to Augusta... The tourism in Savannah is comparable with cities like Charleston and Myrtle Beach...

The sarcastic remarks about Richmond County or the Riverwalk maybe funny until you learn Columbia County only gets 200-300,000 visitors per year.... The 2009 total expenditures in RC is listed at $380 million... The $380 million in Richmond County is larger than the $114 million in Columbia County, $22 million in Mcduffie, $15 million in Burke, and $5 million in Lincoln put together..
http://www.georgia.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/Industries/Tourism/Indust...

The biggest hurdle for the CSRA involves the constant double standards... The posters Proud2Serve said he/she tells people to avoid RC and move to CC... Now the poster wants the project jackson development to become the 'entertainment area' of the CSRA...

Can someone please name one successful city where the 3rd largest county is the main important and the 2nd largest county is the entertainment area?

Butterman
3690
Points
Butterman 08/14/14 - 12:47 pm
4
2
Downtown businesses
Unpublished

Downtown is not hurting for bars. Have you been downtown on a saturday or Sunday morning? Vomit and broken beer bottles on the sidewalk.. it's a mess! Also, it is no secret that some of these restaurants that have the less expensive restaurant liquor licenses are turning into bars and nightclubs after 9pm (you know who you are!).. but yet are not paying the bar/nightclub license fee. Now teh city is giving them an option to have a hybrid license so that restaurants can become bars and nightclubs after hours, but they will have to pay a little more to do so. Seems fair to me.

Riverman1
87535
Points
Riverman1 08/14/14 - 01:47 pm
7
0
Depends on Personal Views

Countyman asked, “Can someone please name one successful city where the 3rd largest county is the main important and the 2nd largest county is the entertainment area?”

It all depends on what you are talking about. The soldier was talking about telling his friends to move to Columbia County when they arrive. With all due respect to the Laney Walker rejuvenation project, the most important residential county is Columbia County. Does anyone seriously doubt THAT “importance?”

Secondly, entertainment area means different things depending on what the person values. Aiken County is popular for horses, golf and shooting in addition to having a thriving quaint downtown area for wealthy patrons. Columbia County has great golf courses, the lake and many restaurants. Richmond County has the bars open to 2 a.m. with the GLBT crowd and I realize some believe that is the most important type entertainment, but others may desire the more straight forward entertainment of outdoor activities and dining in restaurants where alcohol is only a one drink deal with the meal.

corgimom
34701
Points
corgimom 08/14/14 - 07:17 pm
2
0
The concept that RC

The concept that RC government is supposed to revolve around downtown is a main reason why Augusta is in a big fiscal mess.

And if a business owner can't pay the fees, then they need to close their business and go elsewhere.

There are more than enough bars in Downtown to hold everybody, and the restaurants are on a revolving door basis.

When people decide to open a business Downtown, it is the triumph of hope over experience. It is very hard to make a go of any business downtown, because people aren't enthusiastic about going there.

Why do people think that RC should revolve around Downtown, when it doesn't, and is so much more than Downtown?

corgimom
34701
Points
corgimom 08/14/14 - 07:18 pm
1
0
It's also "hard out there"

It's also "hard out there" because Augusta is overbuilt on restaurants and bars, and any business owner should do their research before opening a business in RC.

Little Lamb
47267
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/14 - 08:04 pm
1
0
Ratio

Radio talk show host Herman Cain said that across the USA, more businesses closed than opened in the past six years.

Gage Creed
17989
Points
Gage Creed 08/14/14 - 08:13 pm
1
0
I'm the most important..

No I'm the more important!!
Well I'm #2 in the tech growth!!
That Means 200 jobs last year..

But I have a TEE Center..
And so on..
And so forth..

Butterman
3690
Points
Butterman 08/14/14 - 11:48 pm
1
0
Gin Joints, Pawn Shops, tattoo Parlors
Unpublished

that pretty much sums up downtown

Proud2Serve
234
Points
Proud2Serve 08/15/14 - 08:44 am
1
0
Project Jackson

I never said I wanted to see Project Jackson become the entertainment hub, I said I predict that it will. While the downtown area has improved a bit over the last few years, it is still a dump. Yet the AC raises taxes, and allows our police officers to harass patrons while letting criminals continue to break into cars and rob residents. That really stimulates downtown development.

Enter Project Jackson; clean, safe, modern, more favorable taxes. If I owned a business, and the cost of owning it was similar to the CBD, why not run my business there? You talk about a destination, THAT (at least on paper) is a destination.

This comes back to the Columbia County vs Richmond County argument. If the taxes are going to be the same, and one area is clean and safe vs run down and unsafe, why live there?

Yes. I play Downtown. The majority of my night life spending is in Richmond County. There is MORE to do in Richmond County if you want to drink or eat. I think the majority of Columbia County residents spend more money playing in Richmond County as well. With the exception of restaurants there just isn't as much night life in Columbia County. I am pretty sure that is by design, and you know what? It appears to have made it a better community.

I live in Martinez. I am a Richmond County resident. I do not however have school age kids, and I live in a gated community. I got a good deal on the place I own, so I bought in Richmond County. If I had school age kids, or knew that they were going to raise the taxes and start charging a sewage fee, I would have paid the extra and just gotten a place in Columbia County.

I do not think that the Augusta Commission will get it together. I think they will continue to mismanage funds and line their pockets. I live in a safe bubble, but there are burglaries and assaults in the neighborhoods outside my gate frequently. Now that there is no financial benefit to live in RC vs CC thanks to tax increases and fees, and since the county is better managed, and safer; I will always recommend Columbia County over Richmond County.

It has nothing to do with me trying to discredit Richmond County. Columbia County is just a better place to live.

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