SNELLVILLE - Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer and City Council members voted Monday to make two changes to Snellville's alcoholic beverage ordinance.
The first change allows for beer and wine package stores to host wine tastings. The second change allows bowling alleys to sell distilled spirits to patrons.
With regard to wine tastings, Councilman Tod Warner said, "It came as a surprise to me that we even had a wine store in the city." The proprietor, according to Warner, "has to offer customers a little more to get them through the door," since grocery and convenience stores also sell beer and wine.
The councilman went on to explain that the ordinance amendment does not allow the pouring of wine for consumption on the premises by package store employees; it simply allows customers to taste wines before choosing which wine to purchase.
Councilman Warren Auld voiced concern about the change allowing wine tastings, saying that he went into Monday night's council meeting intending to support the amendment. According to Auld, a change was made to the draft ordinance at the last minute changing "wine stores" to "beer and wine package stores."
Councilwoman Kelly Kautz wanted to be sure that wine-based alcoholic drinks were not included in wine tastings and stated that the ordinance was too loosely worded to be effective. City attorney Mike Williams said the ordinance provides specifically for wine tasting only.
Larry Rutledge, a deacon at First Baptist Church of Snellville, implored council members to think twice before approving the amendment.
"Alcohol is the most destructive substance in the country. Stand up and be Christian about this," he said.
Michael Williamson, another Snellville resident, said the wine store was aware of the city's ordinance before setting up shop within city limits.
"The council needs to do what's right for the citizens of Snellville," he said.
The amendment allowing wine tastings was approved by a vote of 3-2. Councilman Robert Jenkins was absent from the council meeting.
A second change was made to the ordinance which allows for the sale of distilled spirits in indoor bowling alleys.
Warner said bowling alleys in Snellville have to be able to compete with those in Gwinnett County.
"I understand the pain that alcohol can cause," said Warner, who said he lost a cousin to a drunk driver. "The alcohol did not kill my cousin; the person did. It's not the government's place to tell us not to drink alcohol."
Auld said he was concerned that bowling alleys are not required to derive a certain percentage of their sales from food sales in order to serve liquor. Williams responded that state law does not require that, either.
Kautz said she would support the change because the amendment specifies "indoor bowling alleys," as opposed to the original wording that specified "indoor commercial recreational establishments," which she said was too broad.
Several residents spoke against allowing liquor by the drink in bowling alleys, noting that bowling is often a family activity.
The amendment was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Auld casting the only dissenting vote.
Snellville Days first weekend in May
Snellville Parks and Recreation Director Cyndee Bonacci updated Oberholtzer and council members on the events taking place during the upcoming Snellville Days celebration, scheduled May 1 through 3.
According to Bonacci, more than 200 vendors will participate. The three-day festival will include a parade, a 5K race, music and dance entertainment on two stages (including a performance by the Georgia Satellites), an air show, prize giveaways, helicopter rides and more.