Leesburg Council OKs alcohol by the drink vote

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Barring some unforeseen legal holdup, Leesburg voters will have an opportunity to decide Nov. 2 whether eating establishments in the city will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages by the drink.

Acting on a request by businessman John Leach, the Leesburg City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to call for a referendum that will allow restaurants like San Joe's, which will open in the city soon, to serve alcoholic beverages by the drink. The referendum would be similar to one in affect in the county.

"All I'm asking is that the city put a referendum on the ballot to mirror the county's so that restaurants can serve mixed drinks," Leach said. "This is to benefit San Joe's, but who knows what else might come here five years down the road?"

City Attorney Bert Gregory clarified that the county's ordinance was "done in phases," the latter phase allowing alcohol by the drink to be served on Sundays. The city asked that the ordinance include Sunday sales.

"Personally, I'm going to vote against the ordinance," Councilman Bob Wilson said. "But I think citizens should have the opportunity to vote on such matters that concern them."

Gregory said he will research whether a recently passed state law that requires 90 days notice -- rather than 60 -- for called referenda was in effect.

"We've only got a few days to put this together," he said.

The Council also voted at its monthly meeting to raise residential trash utility fees by a dollar and approved a schedule of garbage fees for commercial users of the service.

"That's still, what, $5 cheaper than the county?" Mayor Jim Quinn noted.

In other business the Council agreed to hire Bill Mitchell as operator of the city's new wastewater treatment plant, which engineer Ronny Dudley said would start testing this week; voted to extend an existing sign moratorium for another 30 days; approved Georgia Department of Transportation speed limit updates; and voted to leave the city's tax millage rate unchanged at 6 mills.

Gregory told the Council architects working on the downtown Leesburg Depot restoration project were at a point where input was needed from the city.