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Posted: June 30, 2009 1:59 p.m.

Porterdale council divided on wine café proposal

Two businesses could be in violation of state law

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Click here to read the response of Kenneth Slicker, co-owner of Porterdale Bar and Grill, to the Porterdale City Council's proposed wine café ordinance.

Porterdale City Council members are divided in support for the approval of a new ordinance that would allow a "wine café" to operate in the city.

The owners of Corkpoppers, a wine boutique already in business at the Mill Village, requested a special ordinance be put in place that would allow them to serve alcohol and hors de oeuvres more often than their current wine tasting permit would allow. Presently, Corkpoppers may hold wine tastings one night a week for four hours according to a city ordinance.

A drafted proposal for a wine café was introduced at Thursday night’s council work session. Strict stipulations dictate that 25 different products must be offered for consumption from no less than 10 different vendors. Also, 20 percent of their for-consumption revenue must come from the sale of food, and beer can only account for one percent of consumption sales.

Council members Linda Finger and Robert Foxworth expressed concern that this permit ordinance was not fair to other restaurant owners in Porterdale who have to have 51 percent of their for-consumption revenue come from the sale of food.

Councilman Mike Harper said the owners of Porterdale Bar and Grill have told him that they would seek legal counsel if this ordinance was passed.

Councilwoman Arline Chapman said that the ordinance was fair because if Jimbo’s or PB&G wanted to have only 20 percent of their revenue come from food, they could turn their establishments into a wine café and adhere to the stipulations of that permit. She said that neither business should worry about losing business because the clientele that patronizes Corkpoppers is different than their clientele.

Chapman added that a goal of the city in working on their comprehensive plan is how to draw people from outside the city limits into the town of Porterdale.

"We have got to offer people something different," Chapman said. "The bottom line is business districts don’t take care of themselves."

Council members Chapman and Lowell Chambers both mentioned that this topic had been discussed in previous work sessions and on the council’s yearly retreat.

"We discussed that as an option because our current ordinance was inhibiting certain types of business models," Chambers said.

Foxworth went on to say that he was concerned that Corkpoppers was already in violation of the wine tasting permit and asked Police Chief Wayne Digby, who was present, to look into the matter.

Currently, a beer/wine permit in the city of Porterdale costs $500 and a distilled spirit license costs $2,500. Finger asked City Manager Tom Fox to explore the possibility of charging more than a beer/wine license in order to obtain a wine café permit. Corkpoppers has currently paid $500 for their wine tasting permit.

"We need to treat all our businesses the same and right now, they don’t feel that way," said Finger.

Chief Digby pointed out that if the council wanted to be fair to all businesses serving beer or wine, then they needed to investigate whether Jimbo’s and Corkpoppers were in violation of Section 3-3-21 of the Code of Georgia, which regulates how far from a school or church a business must be to serve alcohol.

The law states, "no person knowingly and intentionally may sell or offer to sell: (B) any wine or malt beverages within 100 yards of any school building, school grounds or college campus."

The boundary is from property line to property line in the straightest path by foot. Both Jimbo’s and Corkpoppers are in the same building as the private school, A Time for Learning. In the law, school is defined as a public or any other "schools in which are taught subjects commonly taught in the common schools and colleges of the state."

The law also states this stipulation will not apply to businesses "for which a new license is applied for if the sale of wine and beer was lawful at such location at any time during the 12 months immediately preceding such application."

Because A Time for Learning first received a business license as a "tutoring" center  rather than a school in August 2006, it may not present a problem. Corkpoppers was issued a wine tasting permit in October 2006 and Jimbo's received a beer and wine permit in August 2007.

Council members said City Attorney Tim Chambers should look into the matter to see if the businesses were in violation of the statute and if so what actions the city would have to take or what repercussions they might face from the state.

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