Public input sought as Macon poised to curb alcohol licenses


Liz Fabian

Earlier this month, Macon-Bibb County Commissioners denied an alcohol license for Friends Food Mart at 3350 Houston Ave. due to safety concerns. Commissioners are now considering a moratorium on licenses in the 31204, 31206 and 31211 zip codes.

Macon-Bibb County commissioners will decide next Tuesday whether to issue a moratorium on alcohol licenses in the zip codes of 31204, 31206 and 31211.

“I think that there’s some argument to be made that we’re oversaturated,” Commissioner Virgil Watkins told the Operations and Finance Committee he chairs.

Although he initially proposed the ban on new licenses for the two zip codes in his district, Commissioner Elaine Lucas asked that the 31211 area of her district in northeast Macon be added to the moratorium.

“Our legal team tells us we can’t say ‘No’ because the community doesn’t want it,” Watkins said. “But there should be a stopping point.”

Mayor Robert Reichert urged commissioners to consider that most of the county’s new license applications stem from a change in ownership at a convenience store. The license does not transfer with ownership so curtailing alcohol licenses will mean existing businesses would no longer be able to sell alcohol after a building is sold, which could hamper the sale of stores.

“The moratorium, I’m afraid, is really going to hurt us as far as letting business transactions take place,” Reichert said. “Don’t kill a gnat with a sledgehammer.”

Commissioner Scotty Shepherd mentioned that the sheriff already has the power to pull an alcohol license if an establishment becomes a nuisance.

Recently, the commission voted not to renew the alcohol license for Pearl’s 35 LLC that operates the Friends Food Mart at 3350 Houston Ave., across from Pendleton Homes.

A history of violent conduct in the vicinity resulted in the license not being renewed as the culprits often fled to the public housing neighborhood, threatening the safety of that community.

“They were actually quite proud of the fact that they didn’t call law enforcement. Their practice was to tell employees don’t go outside” Reichert told commissioners during their Feb. 11 Committee of the Whole.

As commissioners voted to deny that license, Commissioner Bert Bivins said: “We need to do something to let others know this won’t be tolerated.”

The public will have an opportunity to speak about the proposed moratorium during a hearing Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the commission chambers of the Government Center.

The full commission is set to consider the moratorium at the 6 p.m. meeting that evening.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]