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Building a Vibrant Downtown: Council to vote on Alcohol Proximity Ordinance

City Manager Charles Penny says this alcohol proximity ordinance is a part the grander plan of to foster a vibrant downtown business and community scene and remove limitations to this growth.
Cain Smith, City Attorney

At the last Statesboro City Council meeting, a proposed amendment to the Statesboro Code of Ordinances was tabled for further public discussion, to be placed back on the agenda during the April 2, 2024 meeting. 

City Manager Charles Penny and Assistant to the City Manager, Olympia Gaines. 

On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, City Manager Charles Penny led an information session for the public about the amendment that if approved, would remove proximity requirements for on-premises consumption alcohol licenses in a delineated section of downtown.

City staff recommended eliminating this proximity ordinance in order to enable commerce and community activity to continue growing in this section of downtown.

What are the current limitations of the proximity requirements?

The Statesboro Code of Ordinance currently prohibits the approval of on-premise alcoholic beverage licenses for businesses located within 100 yards of a church, school, college, education building or grounds.

However, businesses have been able to apply for a distance waiver permit that may be granted by the mayor and council.

“Currently, proximity waivers can be obtained for pubs, restaurants or low volume establishments,” City attorney Cain Smith stated, clarifying that this amending ordinance is directed to bars and bars with kitchens.

The current ordinance defining the limitations of the proximity of licensing for on premise alcohol consumption can be found here under section 6-7(e).

What is the proposed amendment?

Ordinance 2024-01 appeared in the city council meeting packet for March 19, 2024 for a second reading. If passed, this ordinance would remove the need to apply for this waiver of proximity and only require the business to apply for the licensing within the marked area between Cherry Street on the south, Hill/ Elm Streets to the north, College Avenue to the west, and Mulberry Street to the east.


The city manager pointed out two established properties, the Georgia Southern Business Innovation Group (BIG) and the Statesboro First United Methodist Church, that currently pose these proximity issues for incoming businesses seeking this alcohol licensing.

However, future educational and church storefronts are able to move into these areas, which could potentially cause further limitations to businesses in the "core" of downtown.

City Manager Penny and City Attorney Cain Smith emphasized that this ordinance is essentially just eliminating a “nonsensical” step in the process, because all business licensing is approved by the council. The mayor and council will still perform their due diligence to only permit licenses to responsible business owners, but allow for a new standard of commerce to be established in this area. 

“We're trying to create a downtown that is inviting and exciting for our community,” said the city manager.

The proposed amendment reads as follows:

(4) The proximity requirements for on-premises licenses shall not be in effect for that portion of downtown bound by Cherry Street on the south, Hill/ Elm Streets to the north, College Avenue to the west, and Mulberry Street to the east.

The full ordinance and proposed amendment can be found here on page 10 of the March 19, 2024 City Council Meeting Packet

How will this affect the growing downtown business district?

City Manager Penny says that this is more of a preemptive measure, as currently there are no storefront churches in this section of downtown, but by removing the proximity limitations in this area, it will allow for businesses to seek licenses for on-premise alcoholic beverage services.

This does not prevent a storefront church or educational facility from moving into this section of downtown, but they will do it with the knowledge that another business with this kind of alcohol licensing could potentially move into close proximity to them.

City Manager Penny says this ordinance is a part of the grander plan to foster a vibrant downtown business and community scene and remove limitations to this growth.

“We want improved outdoor experiences,” the city manager said, adding that the goal of the ordinance is to ”enhance walkability and connectivity to other businesses.”

The council will hold another public hearing about Ordinance 2024-01 at the 9 A.M. Tuesday, April 2, 2024 City Council Meeting.