Council members were set to vote Monday night on an ordinance to reduce the amount of space required between businesses that sell alcohol and schools, churches, bus stops and libraries from 300 feet to just 50 feet.
According to city attorney Sam Thomas, the change would help new restaurants and new schools and churches locate to the future downtown site because lengthy door-to-door distance requirements would not create development obstacles.
Thomas said the city still will not allow bars that aren’t also restaurants, and he said any restaurant looking to serve alcohol would still need to go through the full application process.
But representatives from two churches downtown, Alpharetta First Baptist and Alpharetta Presbyterian, said the change would not be good for the area surrounding their churches and the schools attached.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church pastor Ollie Wagner said his congregation does not merely meet on Sunday morning, but they have activities every night of the week, and he worries that alcohol sales will create a “negative environment” near the church.
Asking if the city would be willing to “compromise” by keeping the 300-foot distance, Wagner said “there’s a lot of room for a lot of development” in the 26 acres that will make up the new downtown development.
In addressing various concerns about the change, Councilman Chris Owens said a restaurant pouring licenses and a package store’s license to sell are “very different things.” He also said if a restaurant with an alcohol license changes owners, the new owner would have to apply for a new license.
Councilman D.C. Aiken told the members from the two churches that the ordinance would not apply to or affect them, but that it is geared toward new developments hoping to open as part of the Downtown City Center project. He said the area where the new alcohol rule would apply is already more than 300 feet from the churches.
But council members agreed to hold off on the vote when Councilman Jim Gilvin said he would like to prove on a map that alcohol-serving restaurants could not locate within 300 feet of the downtown churches.
The matter will come back before council either at Monday’s public hearing or early next month.