I’ll try not to be too harsh in this post. After all, the initial draft of an overhaul of the City of Savannah’s alcohol ordinance has a long way to go — public meetings, consideration by council, etc.
I like — really like — some elements of the draft, which you can read for yourself, but a few details are sort of alarming. (Click here for Eric Curl’s coverage at SavannahNow.) [Update: Click here for my Tuesday City Talk column in the Savannah Morning News. Because of the timing of the release and of the first meetings, that might have been the only opinion writing to appear in traditional media outlets before those initial public sessions.]
Click here for the city’s summary of the proposed ordinance. Here are a few major changes as detailed by that page:
- The creation of distinct categories of license holders. Currently, a business seeking an alcohol license can only be considered either a bar or a restaurant.
- Repeal of the hybrid license in favor of a late-night permit that would apply to all alcohol by the drink license holders after midnight
- Repeal of bar cards in favor of mandatory training and record keeping on the part of license holders
- Further protections to prevent minors from coming into contact with alcohol
- Recognition of home brewers, caterers, and brew pubs
- Security requirements for businesses with onsite consumption after midnight on the weekends
- Expansion of the boundary for to-go cups to include Forsyth Park
- Provides for monetary penalties for offenses
For most Savannahians, the key change might be the proposed expansion of the to-go cup zone to include Forsyth Park. I’ll have more thoughts soon on that proposal, which is OK as far as it goes.
But if you’re going to extend the to-go cup zone to Park Avenue, why wouldn’t it be extended at least to Henry Street within those same boundaries? So patrons at places like The Sentient Bean, American Legion Post #135, and Local 11 Ten can buy alcohol by the drink, and people can have to-go cups in Forsyth Park, but patrons of those businesses would not be allowed to cross Park Avenue with drinks they have purchased across the street? Huh?
Anyway, more on that another time.
For this post I just want to comment on the city’s ongoing infantilizing of 18, 19, and 20 year-olds. Once upon a time, those 18-20 year-olds — legal adults! — were allowed inside bars that had live entertainment. An X or other symbol was placed on those patrons’ hands, and employees — whose jobs were at stake — watched them like hawks. So those legal adults could go see bands late at night and be a part of the cultural scene of the city. The policy worked fine, just as it does in Athens and other cities with policies that foster live music.
But it’s apparently not enough to keep 18-20 year-olds out of bars that are live music venues. We now have to ban 18-20 year-olds even from restaurants after 10 p.m. unless they are accompanied by a parent or a “legal guardian.”
When are minors not allowed inside an alcohol-serving establishment?
Minors [the text of the ordinance clearly says that this applies to anyone under 21] are prohibited:
– Where a cover charge is imposed and collected by the licensee as a condition of gaining entry to the establishment
– In a bar, lounge, nightclub or similar establishment
– After 10 p.m. in establishments that derive 50% of their sales from food. Minors are allowed to stay after 10 p.m. if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, so long as the establishment continues to offer its full menu
– Where the maximum occupancy of an establishment is devoted to more than 35% of open space
So how many 18, 19, and 20 year-olds travel through life with legal guardians at their side? And even if 18-20 year-olds are with their parents, do their parents have some special legal control over them? Am I missing something here?
An example: if some of the under-21 SCAD students who live near me want to walk down to Blowin’ Smoke for dinner, they have to be off the premises by 10 p.m.? (SCAD’s daily class schedule doesn’t even end until 10:30 p.m.) Or if they want to wander down to the coffeeshop and cafe Foxy Loxy, which stays open till 11 p.m. most nights and serves beer, they have to be gone by 10 p.m.?
If two 18-year-old high school students go out on a date (does anyone date anymore?), they can take in an early evening movie, but they can’t go out to any restaurant that serves alcohol? Not to Vinnie’s, or to Wild Wing, or to B&D Burgers? Really?
If a couple of 20-year-old soldiers at Hunter get off a late shift and want to grab a bite somewhere after 10 p.m. — or, God forbid, later — they have to limit their dining options to restaurants that don’t serve any alcohol at all, ever? Buffalo Wild Wings is open till at least midnight every night, but that will be off limits to a couple of 20-year-old soldiers because the restaurant serves beer?
So if it’s after 10 p.m., every server at every restaurant with an alcohol license will have to ask for identification from every young-looking patron, even if those patrons are not ordering alcohol? (Of course, the carding will actually have to begin at least an hour earlier to make sure those young customers will be out the door by 10.)
Surely such a ludicrous abridgment of the rights of legal adults aged 18 to 20 and such an absurd new burden on restaurant staff will be dropped before a draft is finalized and approved, right?
Sadly, I’ve lost a lot of faith in the city leadership of late, and unless some members of the general public and some local businesspeople start speaking up — and loudly — we could see a ridiculous provision like this enshrined in law. And, if this nanny state mentality is indicative of the entire behind-the-scenes process, what other onerous details are hidden in the legalistic language?
I spend a lot of time out and about, late at night, in all sorts of nefarious alcohol serving establishments, so I’ll have more thoughts soon on various other details.
Among the details that I’ll examine for sure are the really onerous and often-unnecessary requirements for security personnel after midnight. If you own a business with an alcohol license and are open past midnight, you might want to check out those requirements right away. [UPDATE: Click here for my post about the security requirements.]