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Bulloch Local Government

Alcohol license applicant leaves council meeting with suspension

One business owner was not before the council for an alcohol license violation, but ended up with a suspension anyway.


During a public hearing for an alcohol beer & wine package license for Zip N Food #10 at 1803 Chandler Road, owner Pallavi Patel appeared before the council to petition for a license. In discussion of the background check conducted by the Statesboro Police Department, it came to light that the business, which recently changed ownership, had an alcohol violation.

Background

The previous owner of the store ended all relations with the store, essentially washing their hands of the business affairs, which meant for the purposes of alcohol sales, the license was no longer valid. Mayor Moore called the transfer of ownership “abandonment.” During the transitional process and purchase of the building and business, an alcohol violation was issued because a counter clerk sold alcohol to someone was underage.

While the business had signs displayed in the building indicating that it was under new management, the Patel family says they had not formally closed on all the affairs of the business and building. The confusion meant that the Zip N Food was also in violation of selling alcohol without a license because alcohol licenses stay with the owner or manager of a business, not the actual business.

Going Forward

Statesboro Police Deputy Chief Bryan recommended that the city issue the new license, but suggested a punishment for the sale of alcohol to underage persons for a term of 30-days. That would mean a deferment of the ability to sell alcohol until the council approves the license at the February 7th meeting.

Mayor Moore said of the situation, “There needs to be repercussion for selling underage even though they technically, as a business owner, couldn’t have that repercussion because they didn’t have a license.”

Councilman Boyum responded saying, “You forget that we punish the retail person who sold the alcohol. They get, what, an $800 fine? So it’s not like somebody isn’t being held responsible criminally for the action of selling underage.”

City attorney Cain Smith confirmed the process, stating that any retail person who actually furnishes the alcohol appears in municipal court on a charge and face punishment there.

“Then if you don’t assess the business, why are we assessing all these businesses with punishment? The ordinance says a business is responsible for the people they employ. Otherwise you have no way of holding the business accountable for who they employ.”

Zip N Food said the store had not sold alcohol since the citation was issued by the Statesboro Police Department. The business is in Councilman Riggs’ district and he noted that he has been a patron and noticed that the business is taking steps to prevent the sale of alcohol to underage persons.

“A 30-day suspension seems excessive for the business license. They sold underage once. A 3-day suspensions seems appropriate,” Riggs said.

Licensing Fate

When Moore closed the public hearing, Councilman Travis Chance said he agreed with Councilman Riggs and felt 30 days was a little “heavy handed.” Mayor Moore asked the council to consider when, if given, a suspension would go into effect since the business owner is yet to be issued a license from the city or the state of Georgia. “It’s meaningless if it doesn’t go into effect until he can legally sell. You can’t suspend someone who doesn’t have a license.”

Councilman Sam Lee Jones echoed his support of a 3-day suspension over a 30-day suspension.

Boyum digressed to bring up that Statesboro alcohol licenses are often issued to a manager and not an owner of an establishment, so should a manager be fired, an establishment is no longer able to sell alcohol until a license is changed to a new manager. “We have an alcohol license at the hotel. The license is in the name of the manager because the owner doesn’t live in Bulloch County.”

In discussion, Moore and the Council decided that a motion was needed to grant the alcohol license to Zip N Food and, pending state licensing approval, the business would be issued its first strike violation.

Councilman Chance said, “How are you going to issue them a first strike when they didn’t own the business at the time?” to which Moore responded, “It just becomes part of the historical record for the location.”

Councilman Jeff Yawn made the motion to approve the city alcohol license and once the state license is issued, impose a 3-day alcohol license suspension on Zip N Food.

The motion passed unanimously.

You can watch the council meeting here: This issue in particular begins at the 10:45 mark and ends at 44:51

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com.

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