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Morrow may ease alcohol restrictions in 'Olde Town'

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The City of Morrow tabled a proposed ordinance Wednesday, which if approved, would extend the hours of alcohol consumption within Olde Town Morrow and allow drinks to be carried anywhere within the boundaries of the property.

The proposed changes to the city's alcoholic beverage code include several measures aimed at making it easier for businesses within Olde Town Morrow to sell alcoholic beverages. The proposed measures include:

· Defining an Olde Town Morrow District.

· Removing a requirement that restaurants maintain a 50-percent-to-50-percent food-to-beverage ratio within the Olde Town Morrow District.

· Allowing licensing fees in excess of $3,000 to be paid in quarterly installments, instead of a yearly, lump sum.

· Allowing alcoholic beverages to be carried anywhere within the boundaries of Olde Town Morrow, but not outside the boundaries of the district.

Other changes recommended by city officials on Wednesday, but not specifically mentioned in the proposed ordinance, include extending the cut-off time that restaurants within Olde Town Morrow can sell alcoholic beverages, from 1:55 a.m., to 2:55 a.m.

John Lampl, executive director of the Morrow Downtown Development Authority, said the city is "trying to give every advantage that we can to those businesses, so that we can be successful.

"Olde Town Morrow is an entertainment district where it was designed to have summer concerts and things of that nature," Lampl said. "We wanted the ability to have beverages out in the square, similar to other places like Marietta and downtown Smyrna, which are definitely our competition. Right now, we prohibit it city-wide, and we would like to offer that within the limits of Olde Town Morrow."

During a pre-meeting work session on Wednesday, the Morrow City Council agreed to remove the proposed ordinance from Wednesday night's agenda and move the item to its next regular business meeting, scheduled for Oct. 13. Council members said more time was needed to research the alcohol ordinances of Clayton and surrounding counties.

Councilman Bob Huie argued during Wednesday's work session that the proposed ordinance may produce a situation in which "someone on Tara Boulevard comes out at 2 a.m., and says, 'I'm not ready to go home, let's go to Morrow and drink for another hour.' [If the cutoff time for alcohol sales for Morrow and the county were the same], I wouldn't be against it," Huie said.

Olde Town Morrow, currently in the last stages of construction, is slated to open on Thanksgiving weekend. Among tenants that have already signed letters of intent to operate are Maguire's Family and Friends, a traditional Irish pub based out of Senoia.

Lampl argued that the proposed changes would give Morrow a competitive advantage in attracting new businesses. "We made a significant investment in this place," Lampl said. "I think having the opportunity to have [extended drinking hours] here may mean the difference between [a business] locating here and locating somewhere else."

Several other items, however, were unanimously approved by the city council on Wednesday night. Those included: Repealing sections of city code pertaining to persons "resisting arrest" or "hindering an investigation," allowing persons committing those acts to be charged under Georgia Criminal Code, rather than City Ordinance; accepting ownership and maintenance of State Route 1216 (an access road near the Quality Inn Hotel in Morrow) upon the Georgia Department of Transportation's completion of its Interstate 75/Ga. Highway 54 interchange expansion project; and amending its fiscal year 2009 budget by adding $185,550 to the city's general fund.

According to Morrow Finance Officer Dan Defnall, the amended budget reflects more money being provided to public safety expenses. He said the amended budget also reflects a $117,000 drop in public works expenses.