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Commissioners urge caution on proposed alcohol ordinance amendment
Newton County

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County Development Services discussed a proposed amendment to the alcohol ordinance, pertaining to background checks and catered events, during the Board of Commissioners' work session on Nov. 19.

The amendment of the ordinance — Chapter 32, Section 32-201 of Division II of the Newton County Code — will allow for wedding parties to have a certified bartender but will not require the certified bartender to have an alcohol license.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz cautioned the Development Services about "dispensing the requirements that will ultimately protect the safety of our citizens."

"Having lots of experience with weddings, I can tell you that it is really important for our facility to make sure we have very strict accountability on anybody who brings alcohol on to the premises," she said. "I'd be happy to work with you on some of the problems I know to occur. After 30 years of experience with people trying to skirt the law — we haven't had our alcohol license that long but I've had it for at least 10 years — and there's a lot of manipulation, and we just don't want to expose ourselves."

Judy Johnson, director of Development Services, wondered if there was a way to establish an ordinance of which "certified bartenders would be able to qualify based on certain qualifications."

"I'm not advocating one way or another," she said. "I'm just letting this board know that this is something we deal with each time someone wants to hold a special event."

Schulz, who owns and manages The Oaks Course, said an alcohol license gives the business owner "a lot more teeth" to hold servers accountable.

"It protects my establishment when I have that kind of backing from the government that says not only do you have to meet the requirements of your employer, but you have to meet these requirements too," she said. "Just having to jump through those extra hoops means my servers take their job very seriously. Before we had those requirements, there was a much-relaxed attitude, but now they really sense the accountability."

Commissioner Ronnie Cowan agreed with Schulz and said the board will "have to discuss that at some later point."

Other amendments discussed at the work session included:

  • Upcoming amendment to combine the zoning ordinance, development regulations and water resource ordinance into a single unified development ordinance for the county to make the ordinance more "user-friendly"
  • Amending the Newton County Water Resources Management Ordinance to update language for recent state and federal changes
  • A proposed repeal and replacement of the Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance to be in line with state and federal regulations
  • Amending the State Minimum Standard Construction Codes and the Permit and Administrative Prodecudres Control Ordinance to update language for recent and federal changes