By Jason A. Smith and Johnny Jackson
The Henry County Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted, 5-0, to deny a request to reinstate the liquor license of a local bar and eatery.
The board also passed a resolution to deny the bar's pending alcohol-sales application for 2011 -- until a hearing on the matter is held Jan. 18.
The BOC held an emergency, called meeting Thursday, in response to a request to reinstate the liquor license of Backwoods Bar and Grill, located at 2220 Jodeco Road in McDonough. The request, according to county officials, was made by the bar's owner, Joshua McCullough, in order to be able to sell alcohol for New Year's Eve celebrations.
The emergency commission meeting resulted from a decision by Henry County Superior Court Judge Wade Crumbley, on Thursday, during a "conference call meeting" with the county's attorney, LaTonya Wiley.
Crumbley recommended lifting the BOC's Dec. 20 temporary restraining order against alcohol sales at the bar, according to BOC Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis. She said the judge rescinded the ban the commission had imposed, because the basis for the BOC's initial resolution was not sufficiently outlined.
"The concern, I believe, with the judge, is that our original resolution did not spell out specifics," said the chairman. "This meeting [the emergency meeting] ... was to pass a resolution with some specifics in it. It was a very vague resolution [before], and this sort of shored it up a little bit, and made sure that we referenced our ordinances, and our ability to take the action that we took, based on our law."
The resolution states that the Henry County Police Department "has received more complaints concerning illegal gambling and drug activities occurring at Backwoods, than any other bar establishment operating in Henry County."
The board unanimously approved temporarily suspending the bar's alcohol license after hearing requests from the Henry County Tax Commissioner's Office and the police department, to revoke the license. Tax Commissioner David Curry was joined by Police Chief Keith Nichols and Sgt. Holly Perry in the collective appeal.
Henry County Police officials acknowledged that Backwoods Bar and Grill is owned by Joshua McCullough.
Perry said the request to revoke the establishment's license stemmed from concerns of "illegal gambling, drug activity, underage drinking, and after-hours activities, to include: under-the-bar sales, wet T-shirt contests, bikini contests, and other adult entertainment."
The police sergeant said the police department's Narcotics Unit, and the Georgia Department of Revenue, had been investigating those concerns for years.
Police officials also reported that the bar's owner, McCullough, was arrested Dec. 8, 2010, in connection with a six-week-long narcotics investigation. McCullough, officials noted, was charged with "manufacturing marijuana, possession of a firearm during a crime and possession of methamphetamine."
During Thursday's emergency meeting, Chairman Mathis said information provided by police indicates that McCullough has "insufficient moral character and reputation" to hold an alcohol license.
McCullough was not present for the emergency meeting. His attorney, Bill Moody, addressed the BOC on his client's behalf and strongly disagreed with the board's vote to deny the bar's liquor license.
"I think it's a crying shame when you can take something as important as a license that's responsible for somebody's livelihood ..., and without any notice, without affording any due process, you strip him of it," Moody said. "He needed to have some time to come and make a decision, to make some comments and some rebuttal. I don't know how you could form an opinion, that you could even, in any way, think would be valid, without input from all sides. To me, that's impossible."
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