AUBURN — A small town on the Gwinnett-Barrow border is now joining Suwanee as a place where you can buy beer and wine after the bars close.
Earlier this week, a local convenience store became the first Auburn business to take advantage of a new permit to allow 24-hour sales of beer and wine.
"I think at the end of the day, it does bring a value to the business and a value to the community,” said Lee Maherali, a partner at City Market, who sought the expansion of hours from the city. The new law still limits Sunday sales to after 12:30 p.m.
Maherali said the intent is to allow convenience to people who work late shifts, not to cater to impaired people who want to continue to feel a buzz. Employees went through special training to know when to refuse a sale, he said, including to those already drunk and to minors.
“We put the needs of the community before ours because it’s sensitive,” he said.
Auburn’s Mayor Linda Blechinger said she worries that the new ordinance could have a negative affect, but it could also be a positive.
“If we’re the only jurisdiction for, say, 60 miles around, it could be a magnet to draw people here,” Blechinger said, noting that she did not have a say since the the mayor only votes in the event of a tie. “I can’t necessarily say that would be a bad thing. I think we will see over the next year.”
While City Market is the only business that has received the $421 permit so far, Blechinger said officials at Ingles have expressed interest in expanding their hours.
For now, the city will be comparing the revenues versus the cost of police services, if problems arise.
But Maherali said he and his sister, who are partners in the business, plan to do all they can to police the issues themselves.
“We will be very vigilant to hold to the community’s charm,” he said.