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Draft alcohol ordinance amended
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The second draft of the city of Covington's new alcohol ordinance includes language requiring only managerial employees and bartenders to obtain permits from the police department.

An earlier draft of the ordinance called for all employees of restaurants serving alcohol to obtain an annual permit from CPD and submit to a background check. Many restaurant operators objected to this initial requirement, saying it would place an overly harsh financial burden on their employees and their businesses.

The price for annual alcohol permits for employees required to get one has also been lowered from $50 to $35, according to the draft ordinance.

The second draft of the alcohol ordinance was presented to the Covington City Council at their Monday night council meeting. The new draft, written by City Attorney Ed Crudup, contains several technical changes that came as a result of discussions during the council's May 5 work session.

Drinking hours remain the same under the new draft despite several requests from restaurant/bar operators that the city extend its drinking hours to match those of Porterdale or Conyers.

Currently Covington's ordinance allows the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption between the hours of 8 a.m. and 12:45 a.m., Monday through Saturday and 12:30 p.m. and midnight on Sundays.

Previously several councilmembers spoke in favor of extending the city's drinking hours to match those of Porterdale, which recently extended its cutoff time to 12:30 a.m. on weeknights and 1:30 a.m. on the weekend.

Both CPD Chief Stacey Cotton and City Manager Steve Horton have spoken against extending the city's drinking hours, saying that the police department's call activity would likely increase as a result of the later hours.

Other changes to the draft ordinance include:

• A new section listing prohibited activities for restaurants/bars serving alcohol was added. Prohibited activities include cover charges in any form, dance floors larger than necessary to accommodate the number of patrons the establishment's food service tables can seat, beverage containers larger than 24 ounces, less than 25 food items on the menu, special events such as lingerie shows and wet T-shirt contests, contests of skill or chance in which the award is alcohol or money and events offering drink price discounts to special groups.

• The minimum number of yards between a restaurant serving alcohol and a church was lowered from 100 yards to 50 yards.

• Language requiring applicants for an alcohol license for on-premises consumption to have been a resident in Newton County for at least six months prior to their application date was deleted.

• The nonrefundable application processing fee for an alcohol license was increased from $50 to $100.

• Language was added requiring all applicants for an employee alcohol permit who have been convicted of a felony (that relates to alcohol, controlled substances or a sex crime) to have fully completed their sentence, including all probation or parole.

• The serving of alcohol on public sidewalks in front of restaurants with outdoor dining - with prior written consent and under specific conditions set by the city council - will now be allowed under the new draft.