After reviewing potential changes during its July 20 meeting, the Woodstock City Council held its first official reading of changes being proposed to the city’s alcohol ordinance Monday night.

During his presentation to the council, Community Development Director Brantley Day explained that city staff had wanted to check on a few things following the initial presentation on July 20, which were completed at the end of the week and officially presented to the council in time for Monday’s meeting.

“First of all, we’ve gone back and we’ve revised some definitions. We revised bar, brown bagging, brown bagging establishment and non-alcohol retail establishment,” Day said. “New definitions that we’ve added, alcoholic beverage caterer, ancillary package, courtesy beverage, private party, publicly owned buildings and premises and special events facilities.”

An exemption section was also added to the law, something Day felt would address several questions the city receives on a regular basis and would make the ordinance more comparable to similar laws other local governments have in place. Addressed in the exemption section are courtesy beverages, private parties and publicly owned buildings and premises. Other changes included bringing the city’s law into better alignment with state law, deleting a section on “happy hour” promotions that had been the basis for a number of questions and making the allowance for restaurants to sell sealed packages of beer and wine with to-go orders officially part of the law moving forward.

Elaborating further on some of the items covered, he said having the brown bagging concept in the law would allow restaurants trying to get started and unable to afford the licenses it takes to serve alcohol the ability to let patrons bring in their own containers of alcohol and pour their own drinks while enjoying a meal there, giving the restaurants another option to consider. Similarly, including courtesy beverage gives local businesses, typically places like salons and spas, the ability to serve alcohol in small amounts, usually along the lines of a glass of wine or malt beverage. Day said the inclusion of this section did not violate state law and that, as this is covered by the section on exemptions, no additional license would be needed for a business to offer this service, provided it was not required to possess another license issued under the ordinance. Lastly, Day said there is the chance some licensing fees could change as a result of the amendments being made, but that staff was not prepared to discuss that matter at the meeting, but planned to have that information available at a later meeting.

Following the discussion on the matter, the council unanimously approved accepting this as the first reading of the amendments to the ordinance.

“I think in general this is a really well pulled together ordinance,” Councilman Colin Ake said. “I know there’s been a lot of effort that’s gone into crafting and revising this.”

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