Update on the City of Atlanta's Proposed Legislation to Increase Alcohol License Fees
The City of Atlanta’s Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee held a public hearing October 24, 2017, regarding a proposed amendment to the City of Atlanta’s Alcohol Code to increase alcohol license fees. This increase would triple license fees for most restaurant operators and double license fees for retailers with beer and wine licenses.There has been a lot of confusion with the proposal as well as the process.
Unfortunately, this confusion was fueled by several media reports that made good headlines but fell short of being accurate.
Here’s the quick overview of what you need to know:
The new ordinance was proposed by the Finance/Executive Committee. The hearing was not a hearing for the City Council to vote the ordinance into law. Rather, it was simply a Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee public hearing to receive the proposal from the Finance/Executive Committee and listen to any comments by the general public. If the Public Safety Committee had chosen to, they could have decided to move the proposal forward for consideration by the City Council, but they declined to do so.
Under the old ordinance, license fees were $2,500 for a beer license, $2,500 for a wine license or $5,000 for a combined license with beer, wine and/or liquor. Liquor Package stores have a slightly different model.
With this new proposal, there would no longer be the option for a combined license. Instead, each type of beverage would be applied for and treated as a separate license. Additionally, the fees for such license would increase to $5,000 for EACH license. In essence, this would result in businesses with beer and wine licenses seeing an increase from $5,000 to $10,000 per year and businesses with beer, wine, and liquor licenses seeing an increase from $5,000 per year to $15,000 per year. Additional facilities would continue to be separately licensed and would also see a corresponding increase in fees.
Taylor English attended the hearing to oppose the increase on behalf of its clients. Karen Bremer, President of the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA), presented an opposition on behalf of the entire restaurant industry and rallied the troops to present a packed house of disgruntled opponents. Objections were voiced by many, including Taylor English, not just to the proposal itself but also to the way that it was presented with the omission of input by the retailers who would be affected or input from their respective member associations.
A number of explanations were offered with some suggestions that the proposal needed to be corrected to reflect the intent of the committee, but by the end of the hearing, the proposal was tabled. While we may see it rear its ugly head again in the future, our suspicion is that there will be a lot of changes if a rate increase proposal resurface. Of course, the next Mayor will certainly have an impact on the issue, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed on that front. If you have any questions or would like further details, reach out to Michele Stumpe.
Michele Stumpe, Partner