The Lookout Mountain, Ga., Council approved revisions on first reading, to the town’s alcohol ordinance at a special called meeting Wednesday evening. On the request of the council at the last meeting, Town Attorney Bill Pickering created a draft of amendments to the ordinance. Some changes are aimed at assuring that the new Town Center development will thrive and prosper.
One amendment will reduce the distance requirement from a business that sells alcohol to a church or a school.
The distance was reduced from 1,000 yards to 50 yards from the property line of a church to the business selling alcohol. The distance from a school ground will now be 200 yards. The retail development surrounding the new municipal businesses is expected to have restaurants, bars and retail alcohol sales.
Another change to the ordinance is to allow private clubs and restaurants in town to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption. The businesses this could affect are the Lookout Mountain Club and Café 7 at Rock City. Modifications of the current ordinance would also include changing the zoning requirement which currently allows carry-out sales only in the commercial zone. The Lookout Mountain Club, with two locations, is in a residential zone. The ordinance would allow both by-the-drink and retail package sales from both the club and the golf club.
The amendments to the alcohol ordinance were passed unanimously on first reading.
The council members also voted unanimously to adopt an emergency order that Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has put in place for the county due to the public health issues from COVID-19. It adheres to the CDC recommendations and imposes some restrictions of what people can and cannot do, said Attorney Pickering. Some conditions include encouraging people to take precautions from exposure to the virus. It also prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people, and gyms and fitness businesses will be closed. And it prohibits restaurants and bars from serving on site, but will allow them to sell take-out orders.
To provide some relief to the closed facilities, the emergency order relaxes some rules to allow restaurants and private clubs selling food to also sell take-out malt beverages and wine, even if they normally do not sell alcohol. The amendments to the alcohol ordinance can go into effect immediately because the emergency order from the county makes it OK in the city as well. The conditions in the emergency order are similar to the revisions made to the alcohol ordinance. However, the emergency order is temporary due to the coronavirus issues and the revised ordinance is a permanent change to the town’s law.
Mayor David Bennett told the council he has had multiple conversations with the USDA which has now said the town can move forward with the Town Center construction with the understanding that if the loan for the project is not approved, the town will be responsible for paying for the work done. The next step will be asbestos remediation in the old buildings, which is estimated to cost $15,000. The council members gave approval to proceed. That work will take a couple of weeks to complete.
The mayor thanked Rock City, which currently is closed, for keeping Starbuck’s open during the coronavirus crisis. Café on the Corner, The Mountain Market and Mapco are also open. He urges residents of Lookout Mountain to support “the people who are committed to our community.”
He reported that the public works personnel are still doing their jobs and the administrative staff is working remotely from home, with phone calls being forwarded to them. He encourages residents to thank them and let them know how much they are appreciated. The town employees will continue to be paid as full time, he said. Residents on the mountain should look out for their neighbors, especially senior citizens, said the mayor, and help if it is needed.
Mayor Bennett said, “The community will be stronger for this. Lookout Mountain will adapt and change as necessary during this time."