Snellville to appeal liquor ruling

SNELLVILLE -- Officials will appeal a judge's ruling last week that brought a halt to Sunday liquor sales in Snellville.

Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer announced Tuesday the City Council will look toward the Georgia Supreme Court to solve the dispute.

And while the appeal is being considered, he hopes Judge Mark Lewis will stay his order, allowing beer to be served at city restaurants on Super Bowl Sunday.

"In these economic times, we owe our businesses and the people they employ to do everything within our power to allow them to compete on a level playing field with others in Gwinnett County," he said, pointing to anecdotes of as much as 65 percent increased business on the few Sundays where alcohol was served before the issue went to court. "We cannot ignore the proof of the economic impact this extra day has had on our city."

Last week, Lewis ruled against the city, determining that a provision of state law allowing for Sunday sales in counties larger than 160,000 does not supersede a law requiring a referendum.

Because the city cannot hold a referendum until this summer, Oberholtzer said attorneys would pursue the appeal to give the seven restaurants who were granted licenses to continue to serve on Sundays.

"In these economic times and in this business arena we are in right now, business is important," said Jamie Dempsey, a spokesman for Mellow Mushroom. "People ought to be able to spend their money where they want to."

While the city has yet to vacate Sunday liquor licenses, businesses were advised against serving last weekend. Oberholtzer said that if the stay is not granted, the city will reimburse the businesses for their licenses.

Councilwoman Kelly Kautz said she voted against pursuing an appeal in an executive session last week.

While Oberholtzer said residents already voted on the matter in a 2004 referendum, where days of the week was not mentioned, Kautz said the referendum is outdated and people should be allowed to go back to the polls.

"An appeal now would unnecessarily cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal fees and take several months to be heard," she said in a statement. "It is time the council, myself included, stop spending time and money fighting the referendum and hold a referendum."

An appeal, she said, "would only prolong the discord" in the community.