Macon liquor stores will be able to stay open later after an extensive update to the county’s alcohol ordinance was approved Tuesday.
The extended hours were added to the code in response to some of the increased costs for alcohol licensing fees some business owners will pay. Macon restaurant and bar patrons, however, will not have a slightly higher bill because a new tax on liquor was removed from the measure.
Commissioner Al Tillman said he pushed for extending the hours for liquor stores from 9 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday because some owners expressed interest since their license costs were going up.
The changes in fees did lead to two commissioners rejecting the amendments. Commissioners Mallory Jones and Larry Schlesinger said they would be harmful to some businesses.
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Jones cited examples such as retail package sales for malt beverages will go from $1,000 to $1,800.
“We’ve got a booming business (district) downtown and some of the fees are exorbitant and even punitive in my mind,” Jones said.
Commissioner Virgil Watkins, who sponsored the updated ordinance, said the new fees will bring Macon closer to the state average, and more revenue will help bring more resources to a struggling business license department, he said.
In some instances, the fees are being lowered.
“The state average is fair and it’s been 20 years since we as a county have adjusted these fees at all,” Watkins said.
An initial proposal to charge a 3 percent tax on liquor sold for on-site consumption was removed from the measure. (The tax would not have impacted beer or wine sales).
The concern over the tax from some businesses owners and commissioners led to the exclusion of the “pour tax,” Watkins said.
One of the other amendments now forces some late night establishments where alcohol is served by the drink to be closed from 3 a.m.-6 a.m.
That change is to prevent some places that would allow people to bring their own alcohol past the serving time of 2 a.m., which would sometimes be a haven for late night debauchery, Watkins has said.