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Morrow eases alcohol restrictions on Olde Town

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After a vote this week by the Morrow City Council, adults attending the Thanksgiving-weekend opening of Olde Town Morrow will be able to enjoy alcoholic beverages while on the premises, according to city officials. The city has also eased several of it's alcohol ordinances, city-wide, in an effort to attract new businesses.

On Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to amend the city's Alcoholic Beverage Code, establishing Olde Town Morrow as an entertainment district, and allowing the sale and consumption of alcohol anywhere on the premises. The amendments also change the city's fifty-fifty, alcohol-to-food ratio requirement for bars and restaurants, to 60 percent alcohol, 40 percent food.

Businesses within Olde Town Morrow will be exempt from the ratio rule on every day except Sunday.

In addition, the changes allow any new business owner obtaining an initial acohol license in excess of $3,000 to do so in quarterly installments, rather than in one lump sum.

Annual license fees for full-bar establishments is $5,000 and $2,500 for establishments selling just beer and wine, according to Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady.

According to Eady, the time period in which businesses can sell alcohol within the Olde Town Morrow district will remain the same as businesses outside the district. However, he believes the changes to the code will provide incentives for businesses in, and outside, Olde Town Morrow.

"It [the alcohol-to-beverage ratio] used to be fifty-fifty, but now it is sixty-fourty," Eady said. "The profit margin on alcohol is a little more than food itself. It allows the business operator and the chain operator to make a little more profit. We hope it will entice some businesses to move inside the city limits of Morrow, knowing that the food-to-alcohol ratio is not split evenly in half.

"This also allows those businesses to pay that $5,000 [alcohol license fee] in quarterly installments, instead of in one, lump sum," Eady said. "It's another incentive, and it will help the small business owners. They can serve alcohol up to 1:55 a.m. Every bar, however, must have a working kitchen and cook."

Morrow City Clerk Evyonne Browning said that within the Olde Town Morrow district, adults over the age of 21 will be able to walk freely around the property with alcoholic beverages. To monitor alcohol consumption, all drinks sold within the district will be served in the same, distinguishable containers, she said.

"All the places that sell alcohol will have the same kind of cups, as opposed to someone walking around with their own bottle of wine or container," Browning said. "It's kind of how like they have it in Savannah. They will have certain bottles they give out ... If police see somebody with just a glass of wine, they will know that they didn't purchase there."

Browning said easing restrictions in Olde Town Morrow will allow for businesses, such as wine bars, that serve little food. "They are just trying to bring in a variety of people and not be so strict with them," she said.

Eady said the city is still working on a design for the cups. He said a "Friendship Force" of unarmed monitors will be assigned to patrol Olde Town Morrow to ensure alcohol is consumed in designated cups, and doesn't enter, or leave, the district.

"There will be a Friendship Force," Eady said. "They will not have any arrest powers or weapons of any sorts. They will have communication with the Morrow Police, if there is any kind of problem. It is not our intent to have a full cup of alcohol leave the premises."