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Morrow City Council approves ‘Internet cafe’ restrictions

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke (center) said an ordinance designed to keep gambling parlors from disguising themselves as “Internet cafes” would maintain “the integrity of the city.”

Photo by Curt Yeomans Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke (center) said an ordinance designed to keep gambling parlors from disguising themselves as “Internet cafes” would maintain “the integrity of the city.”

The Morrow City Council took a step toward keeping gambling parlors out of the city on Tuesday, by voting unanimously to approve an ordinance that lays out strict guidelines that a business must follow to call itself an “Internet cafe.”

Businesses that act as gambling parlors sometimes masquerade as “Internet cafes” to hide their activities, according to City Attorney Laurel Henderson. Under the new ordinance, however, any business that called itself an “Internet cafe” would be barred from allowing gambling to take place on its premises.

“It prevents a regulatory scheme for Internet cafes, so that businesses which are essentially gambling parlors, can’t come to town claiming to be an Internet cafe,” Henderson told councilmembers. “It probably will not be the only ordinance of this nature that you pass, but it’s part of the solution.”

The council’s approval of the ordinance means the city can lift a year-long moratorium on allowing Internet cafes inside the central Clayton County city. The moratorium had been put in place after a business tried to open as such a cafe, and the city realized it needed something in place that actually defined what an Internet cafe is.

The business that prompted the moratorium has since withdrawn its application for a business license, city officials said last month.

Henderson explained after the council meeting that it is possible that the new ordinance could bring to light additional, yet related, issues that the council may have to deal with in the future. “It’s one of these situations where you fix one leak in a boat, and you may find another leak someplace else,” she said. “Until the leak comes, you don’t know what else to plug.”

The city attorney added that “there’s nothing [else] on the horizon,” at this time, as far as additional ordinance changes go.

Last month, Henderson explained that the ordinance strictly mandates that Internet cafes must:

• Post anti-gambling warning notices in each computer carousel,

• Have all computer carousels in a single, open area,

• Not “screen” off computer carousels from other patrons of the cafe,

• Serve “real,” traditional cafe-oriented food, and not just “a rack of potato chips.”

Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke expressed his own belief that the ordinance would help keep the city’s quality of life free of crime as he called on councilmembers to make a motion to approve the Internet cafe law.

“I’m entertaining a motion to approve this ordinance because I think it maintains the integrity of the city,” Burke told the council.

Afterwards, he further explained that he read the ordinance twice before the council voted on it, and felt it was “common sense” to protect the city’s interests by barring establishments where illegal activities may take place.

“When I looked at this thing, it looked like it was kicking out any possible type of riff-raff,” he said. “It’s protecting the city’s integrity, by not just allowing any type of business to come in here and conduct anything less than a professional business.”

The council also heard a presentation from Morrow Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin on proposed changes to the city’s zoning map.

McLaughlin explained that the changes are “house keeping” measures, such as listing the “Olde Towne Morrow” development on the map, and changing the colors used to differentiate between various areas, because the colors currently used are too similar to one another.