A Macon-Bibb County commissioner is warning some businesses to clean up their acts.
Commissioner Al Tillman said he has heard complaints from residents about loitering and other crimes taking place near nine different stores and nightclubs. He said he's considering placing stipulations on those businesses that owners must meet if he is to support the renewal of their liquor licenses.
"It's not fair for us to continue to spend and drop millions of dollars in neighborhoods if these (business owners) will allow drug dealing, loitering, illegal gambling and killing," Tillman said. "Who are they really trying to attract if grandmothers, aunties and little old ladies don't feel comfortable going into their business?"
But county commissioners could be handcuffed when it comes to the actions they can take, such as revoking liquor licenses, when trying to force businesses to meet certain standards, County Attorney Judd Drake said.
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Tillman said commissioners should take the lead to ensure businesses are doing their part to clean up any crime on their property.
Business and alcohol license renewals are due by Jan. 1 of each year, but there is a grace period until April 1, said Tom Buttram, director of Macon-Bibb County Business Development Services. All license renewals are approved by the County Commission.
While commissioners are spending $10 million on blight within the county, businesses should not escape addressing their own issues, Tillman said.
One option may be to continue to monitor some stores over a period of a few months, and in extreme cases commissioners may revoke a license, he said.
Sheriff David Davis said his office performs background checks on business owners and also examines other criteria such as how often deputies respond to calls about incidents there. In some cases, someone with the sheriff's office will meet with businesses owners to discuss how issues can be fixed.
"We put them on notice that we need to remedy some of these problems, and if not, you could risk me as the sheriff recommending their licenses not be renewed," Davis said last week.
One component of the license review is whether people who live around the stores have brought their concerns to the attention of deputies.
"In some cases I've had scores of calls and emails from concerned residents who have reservations about (certain) businesses being in their midst," Davis said. "I use a lot of that as a catalyst of justification for not approving the business licenses. You can't blame a business owner for everything that happens on his or her premises, but you can put them on notice to help put together some measures to prevent some of the incidents."
But according to Georgia law, county officials can only revoke a license under limited circumstances. One of the standards is that there have been a certain number of instances where law enforcement has responded to crimes at the store, Drake said during Tuesday's pre-commission meeting.
When a renewal or new license goes before commissioners, the vote is basically an administrative process, he said.
"(Commissioners) don't just have the right to do it arbitrarily," Drake said.
For Tillman, however, it's not about trying to take a license away, but making sure county officials understand they "have an obligation to say to those business owners 'Clean up your area, too.'"
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.