Originally created 09/17/97

City amends alcohol ordinance



All Augusta-Richmond County restaurants that serve alcohol on Sundays must stop selling by midnight and have the premises vacated within 30 minutes under an amendment to the city's alcohol ordinance approved by commissioners Tuesday.

The Augusta Commission voted 7-2, with one abstention, to stop Sunday sales at midnight, amending the current ordinance that allows sales to continue until 2 a.m. Monday.

Commissioners Willie Mays and J.B. Powell voted against the measure, Mr. Powell on grounds he opposes all Sunday sales. Mayor Pro Tempore Freddie Handy abstained.

The amendment must be approved again by the board after a second public reading to become law.

The vote was triggered by complaints from Hill area residents about patrons of Cafe Du Teau at 1855 Central Ave. Residents said patrons carouse until the wee hours on Mondays and disturb the peace.

Resident Barry Bolgla videotaped the late-night, early-morning comings and goings around the cafe for the past year and distributed copies to commissioners last week.

He and the residents were represented Tuesday by attorney Jack Long, who persuaded commissioners to amend the ordinance, despite counter-arguments by the restaurant's lawyer, Robert "Bo" Hunter III, to leave the ordinance alone.

Mr. Hunter argued that many people go to the restaurant on Sunday night and do not finish dinner until after midnight. He encouraged commissioners to go see for themselves.

Mr. Bolgla, however, said most patrons don't arrive at the cafe until 11 p.m. or later on Sundays, after most other places that serve alcohol have closed.

City Attorney Jim Wall said "at some point" on Sunday nights, the cafe stops being a restaurant and "starts being a bar."

Central Avenue resident Steve Fishman asked commissioners to give residents relief from patrons and their antics. He told them about his 10-year-old daughter saying there was a dead man outside their house when it was a drunk sleeping it off from the night before.

The pastor of nearby Bethlehem Advent Christian Church appealed to commissioners to amend the ordinance.

Commissioner Rob Zetterberg said Cafe Du Teau is operating as a barroom Sunday nights and that people in the neighborhood have a right to live in peace.

Mr. Powell, however, said instead of changing the law, commissioners should ask the sheriff to go to the cafe and enforce current ordinances that are being violated.

Mr. Mays also argued against changing the ordinance, especially with the provision to have the premises vacated by 12:30 a.m. Mondays.

"When somebody violates an ordinance, deal with that situation," Mr. Mays said. "When you get to changing ordinances for one business, you get into a knee-jerk mode. I have a serious problem with where this ordinance could go in infringing on other businesses."

Forcing owners to have the premises vacated by 12:30 a.m. Mondays would create a nightmare for the sheriff's department to enforce, Mr. Mays said.

"You pass this ordinance today, you're going to have more people on your plate than Cafe Du Teau," he said.

Mr. Handy proposed a special hearing on Cafe Du Teau. "We need some more input on this," he said.

After Tuesday's commission meeting, Mr. Long said the board's action was "reasonable. ... People need to stop drinking liquor one night a week," he said. Mr. Hunter called the vote "interesting."