Atlanta City Council to vote Tuesday on proposal extending bar hours

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on a proposal to extend the legal drinking hours at bars to 4 a.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and Saturdays until 2:55 a.m.

The council has been advised by its Public Safety Committee to reject the measure.

However, it’s a truism that the fate of any legislation is uncertain once it’s put before a legislative body. Especially a proposal that comes as a surprise after a holiday weekend – as is the case with this one.

Atlanta Councilman Kwanza Hall

Atlanta Councilman Kwanza Hall

Councilman Kwanza Hall submitted the proposal to extend pouring hours. Hall represents some commercial areas that support later closing hours, particularly those in the renewed neighborhoods between Little Five Points and Downtown Atlanta.

Hall’s idea has languished for almost a year. That is, until last week in the council’s Public Safety Committee.

Committee Vice Chairman Michael J. Bond was running the Public Safety Committee in the absence of committee Chairman Ivory Lee Young. Jr.

Bond, remember, has a different idea from Hall concerning alcohol sales.

Atlanta City Councilman Michael J. Bond

Atlanta City Councilman Michael J. Bond

Bond wants to make it easier for the city to close businesses that sell alcohol in violation of city codes. Bond’s idea drew immediate fire from groups that feared Bond intended to use his proposal as a ruse to extend the legal pouring hours.

Bond regained the ground by saying he does not want the issue of longer hours to be considered by the group that he wants the council to create.

Instead, Bond said he intends for a technical advisory group to tighten city codes in order to crack down on the shops that don’t follow city code – those that sell booze to minors, don’t maintain their property, and don’t enforce rules about not drinking beer in the parking lot.

Hall’s proposal reportedly was taken up abruptly last week by the Public Safety Committee, which acted so quickly that neither Hall nor a representative was able to get to the committee meeting before its vote. Councilmembers customarily are afforded an opportunity to present their proposal. Minutes of the meeting were not available Monday on the city’s website.

The agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting shows the Public Safety Committee voted to send Hall’s proposal to the council with the recommendation that the council reject it.

Amidst this development on pouring hours, the broader issue of Sunday alcohol sales is still unfolding in Atlanta and the rest of Fulton County.

Fulton County officials are deciding whether to place the Sunday sales vote on a November ballot that has been called by the Fulton County Board of Education. The Sunday sales referendum could join the school board’s referendum on the extension of a penny sales tax to pay for school-related construction for the public schools in Atlanta and Fulton County.

The vote on the school tax is proceeding against the expressed wishes of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who has said it could reduce support for the penny sales tax for transportation improvements. Reed does support the transportation sales tax.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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