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Social Circle voters will soon be asked to decide whether hard alcohol should be sold by the drink at restaurants in the city.

At the Social Circle City Council's Aug. 19 meeting, the council approved a resolution to put a ballot measure before voters on the sale of liquor by the drink.

Mayor Jim Burgess said the council's decision is part of a larger drive to revitalize the city's downtown.

"It definitely will be a great asset to us in terms of long-term economic development," Burgess said. "It's going to be very difficult to get any upscale restaurants in our community without a pouring license."

The council will set a date for the liquor referendum at their next meeting, Sept. 16. The date of the referendum is likely to be in either November or March.

City Manager Doug White said the city may hold off on making a big push to get the referendum passed in November in order to allow residents a chance to digest what liquor by the drink would mean for their community. White and Burgess both stressed that the council is not interested in having package store come into the city.

White said last Tuesday's meeting was the first time the council had publicly brought up the possibility of having liquor by the drink in the city.

The referendum is not intended to allow bars and nightclubs into the city. Restaurants that sell hard alcohol must continue to derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from the sale of food.

Currently restaurants can serve beer and wine to their patrons in Social Circle. Malt beverages can also be sold at grocery stores and gas stations.

Tom Lutton, owner of the Sycamore Street Neighborhood Grill, said he was excited by the prospect of being able to serve cocktails to his customers along with the beer and wine his restaurant currently serves.

"We're all for it. It would definitely benefit our business," Lutton said. "I've had numerous customers express an interest that they wished we had [hard alcohol]. I know we lose business because we don't have it."

Burgess said the referendum ties into the city's larger economic development plans. With the Blue Willow Village, a tourist attraction with several boutique shops accompanying a creationist museum, set to open next month, the mayor said having liquor by the drink is critical to the city's entire development plan.

"We need something to accommodate that influx of tourism that will be coming in," Burgess said.

Social Circle is only the latest in a string of local municipalities to weigh opening up its alcohol laws. Porterdale recently voted to allow the sale of hard alcohol by the drink. Both Porterdale and Covington voted in the spring to extend the cutoff time for the sale of alcohol.