By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners recently passed an ordinance which will allow several businesses in the Villages of Ellenwood shopping complex to sell liquor.
The measure sidesteps existing ordinances, which limit the sales of alcohol in unincorporated Clayton County to beer and wine. However, the move removed a major stumbling block in the county's effort to attract upscale restaurants to the county's newest mixed-use development.
Hugh Morton, managing partner of Villages of Ellenwood, LLC., said the ordinance is an effort to pitch the "venue to somebody other than a fast-food vendor.
"In the county proper, you can only serve beer and wine," said Morton. "If you have mixed drinks, like a margarita, you have to get a special variance.
"They understood completely that restaurants don't serve just beer and wine," Morton continued. "We're open to attract some pretty nice restaurants at some point, but without this ordinance, it wasn't possible. They recognized that this was a little bit of an impediment, but they have taken care of it."
District 1 Commissioner Sonna Singleton envisions the Villages of Ellenwood to be similar to the Camp Creek Marketplace, and said the ordinance will work to "enhance the area."
"Villages of Ellenwood is going to be the place to go in Clayton County, where people go to live, shop, and play," said Singleton. "We're beginning to develop that whole business-retail area and we wanted the ability to go past fast food. With this ordinance, we will be able to court some of these nice restaurants where people like to eat out."
BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell said passing the ordinance was "a value-driven" decision, in line with the county's overall "economic development strategy" to attract more upscale dining.
"We're actively trying to get a Pappadeaux's down here," said Bell. "We're breaking down that barrier to allow them to be able to attract those kinds of restaurants. We feel it's a positive thing for us.
"I don't know how many people I have run into that have asked us to get some good, table-cloth restaurants here," Bell added.
"It's not a significant change to our ordinance, it's just an effort to grow our county."