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County considering alcohol catering changes
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There are two ways to hold catered parties with cash bars in some areas of Newton County.

First, a local company with a by-the-drink license could host one, but no companies now have such a license. Second, a company with a license from another jurisdiction like the city of Covington or Rockdale County could host one, and there are plenty of those.

But the county’s by-the-drink ordinances don’t apply in the county’s rural areas. Tuesday night, Newton County attorney Jenny Carter presented a draft rule that would add an extra layer to the permits already needed to provide for cash-bar parties.

The commissioners ultimately tabled the idea during the pre-commission workshop, with the promise to consider it again the first meeting in October.

Commissioner John Douglas has been requesting the ordinance change for months now, as restaurants in Covington and elsewhere have asked to cater events with alcohol in eastern Newton County — his district.

No matter what, Carter said, the inspections and permits now in place will remain. Caterers must get an event permit, be inspected by health officials (if they serve food), and the fire marshal (if they’re in a building). They must also provide details like expected traffic and the reason for the party, even if it’s just a party.

A new proviso of the proposed rule change would be that the amount spent on alcohol for a party cannot exceed the amount spent on food. Commissioner Lanier Sims questioned how that would be possible. Carter replied that receipts should do the trick.

The board talked of putting limits of four per caterer or four per location, but no decision was made. Commissioners also questioned what would happen to caterers who violate the proposed rule. Carter replied that future event permits would be denied. Chairman Keith Ellis asked if double fees were possible. Carter advised against that.

Carter said much of the proposed ordinance change was based on a similar, successful program in Glynn County.
The ordinance will come up for discussion at the Oct. 7 commissioners’ meeting.