Alpharetta's alcoholic beverage ordinance doesn't allow the office Christmas party to offer any alcohol without the company getting a license from the city. Ambiguities like that are among the changes City Council heard from staff at their last meeting on Sept. 17.
Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard and City Attorney Sam Thomas brought complaints from Alpharetta businesses and problems enforcement officers were having with the ordinance to City Council to get direction on possible changes to the law.
A corporation planning a party in its own offices would have to get the premises licensed, and then the caterer would have to get a license as well.
Some hair salons serve customers wine as they wait for their turn with a stylist, which is another illegal action under the ordinance. Whether City Council decides to change the law to allow this will be up for debate once Drinkard and Thomas bring back proposed changes to the ordinance.
"Do we really care if that is going on? That's a question for you," Drinkard told City Council.
"I know of two salons that serve wine while [customers] are waiting," said City Councilman Donald Mitchell. He asked what's difference if they are allowed serve wine from going to an Alpharetta Business Association event or a Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours.
Drinkard said the special events provision of the ordinance allows non-profit organizations to offer alcoholic beverages. The restriction is on the premises, so a particular member of either organization would be limited to hosting two such events in a year, while the organization could hold events in several different locations throughout the year.
Thomas said some of the things being discussed were designed to fit the more modern business model of today and not the restraints approved when the ordinance was written in 1987. The changes are being suggested to help the Department of Public Safety's enforcement officers as well. He said, "we have to arm them with easy to interpret language so that they can more easily go out and enforce."
Happy hours were another consideration.
"Currently in the city, that's something they're not allowed to do," Drinkard said.
Most of the chain restaurants have happy hours. They meet all other provisions of the ordinance, but they do have promotions on some nights when customers can get drinks that are less expensive than on any other night.
Thomas said they were not making a recommendation. They were bringing forward complaints of some other businesses and of their enforcement officers.
Public Safety Director Gary George said the city has not had many issues with happy hours appearing to cause more incidents.
Drinkard said another issue that has come forward with growler stores. The law that established growler sales set up the ability for the stores to serve the three one-ounce samples of beer.
"What we didn't stipulate was the containers in which that sample may be provided," he said.
"We are having a difficult time with enforcement because we are having establishments using like a Solo cup," Drinkard said.
Enforcement officers have a difficult time making sure the samples are being limited when a large plastic cup is used. One growler store uses a one-ounce cup, which easily shows the limit is being observed.
"So we could solve this by saying each growler store can only use a one-ounce sampler cup," Mitchell said.
Thomas also pointed out the discrepancy between wine tasting events that allow eight ounces of wine samples, while growler stores are limited to three ounces total. Growler stores can't offer a sampler tasting, but City Council wants to make the law more equitable.
Mayor David Belle Isle said he wasn't opposed to wine stores being allowed to serve the small samples just like growler stores, while Councilmen D.C. Aiken and Chris Owens wanted to see discrepancies between wine and growler store tasting events and samples be changed.
Even grocery stores serving wine with cooking classes can run afoul of the ordinance today, another area that staff will attempt to resolve with suggested changes to the law