ALBANY, Ga. — Alcohol license non-renewal hearings for Big Daddy's Lounge and the Sandtrap Club and Lounge, two of five nightclubs targeted by city officials for the severity of illegal activities on or near their property, were postponed Wednesday morning because of the absence of two members of the Albany City Commission.
Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta and Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike were unable to attend Wednesday's hearing, leading Mayor Dorothy Hubbard to recommend postponing the proceedings until Jan. 29
Pike did not attend hearings Monday for Charley B's Sports Bar and Grill and Club Xscape.
"I'm skeptical of going forward with two commissioners not here," Hubbard said after City Attorney Nathan Davis offered preliminary comments to start the hearing. "My feeling is that we need at least six (members of the commission) here to move forward."
Bo Dorough, who is representing Big Daddy's and Sandtrap owner Gilbert Udoto, asked Davis if the burden of proof at the hearings lay with the city or with the nightclubs. When Davis said the city, which may refuse to renew or suspend the establishments' alcohol licenses, must show sufficient reason to take such action, Dorough said he felt comfortable going ahead with the hearing with only five commission members present.
Dorough, who formerly served on the commission, did express concern, though, that Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard has always refused to vote in favor of alcohol licenses, even for one-day charity events. That sparked the ire of Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell.
"You don't know how Jon is going to vote," Postell said. "You're making an assumption, and you can't make these statements based on assumptions. This commission is here this morning to hear the evidence, and we will base our decision on that evidence."
Howard and Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines, who has so far abstained from voting on any issue that involves alcohol, both said they feel comfortable making their decisions in these hearings based on the evidence presented.
"I think this is a case where we're going to have to listen to everything that's said and make a decision based on that," Howard said. "We're going to have to go through the process. I think it was good judgment not to continue with the hearing today with two commissioners not here.
"We'll all take this matter up on Jan. 29."
Hines, a minister, said the circumstances that led to the hearings make it a different matter for him.
"I must weigh all the factors in these cases," he said. "I don't want to deny anyone an opportunity to make a living without hearing their evidence, and that means we have to take a long look at these licenses. I have consciously abstained from voting on alcohol issues while on the commission, but I do not intend to make a decision (on the license renewals) without going through this process."
Dorough said Udoto had no problem rescheduling the hearings on the 29th so long as his establishments are allowed to operate as usual until that time.
Davis said the hearings would have to proceed on the 29th because the nightclubs' alcohol licenses will expire on Jan. 31.
"This is a unique proceeding, a different kind of process," the city attorney said. "We've prepared our case, so we'll just have to move forward with full-blown hearings on the 29th."
Davis said that if enough commissioners are not present to make up a quorum (four commission members) before the 31st, the nightclubs' licenses would automatically be renewed.