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A Brief Look at Gainesville, Georgia, Alcohol License Law

by merlin on October 25th, 2014
  • Sumo

For a recent matter, I had to look into an area of law that I have not explored in several years – municipal law – and better refresh myself for my client’s upcoming hearing.

 

It is a given that the municipality where you live has the right to permit or refuse to allow certain businesses within the limits of its power.  It is the very basis of the idea of a sovereign, in many ways.  One place the rule is written is in Section 3-3-2 of the Official Code of Georgia.  It specifically governs the powers of local governing authorities as to the granting, refusal, suspension, or revocation of licenses generally, what due process the businesses that petition for licenses are permitted, and requires that the applicant him- or herself be fingerprinted.

 

(a)  Except as otherwise provided for in this title, the manufacturing, distributing, and selling by wholesale or retail of alcoholic beverages shall not be conducted in any county or incorporated municipality of this state without a permit or license from the governing authority of the county or municipality. Each such local governing authority is given discretionary powers within the guidelines of due process set forth in this Code section as to the granting or refusal, suspension, or revocation of the permits or licenses; provided, however, that residency by an applicant within the city or county issuing the permit or license shall not be a requirement by the respective local governing authority if the applicant designates a resident of the city or county who shall be responsible for any matter relating to the license.

(b)  The granting or refusal and the suspension or revocation of the permits or licenses shall be in accordance with the following guidelines of due process:

(1)  The governing authority shall set forth ascertainable standards in the local licensing ordinance upon which all decisions pertaining to these permits or licenses shall be based;

(2)  All decisions approving, denying, suspending, or revoking the permits or licenses shall be in writing, with the reasons therefor stated, and shall be mailed or delivered to the applicant; and

(3)  Upon timely application, any applicant aggrieved by the decision of the governing authority regarding a permit or license shall be afforded a hearing with an opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine opposing witnesses.

(c)  As a prerequisite to the issuance of any such initial permit or license only, the applicant shall furnish a complete set of fingerprints to be forwarded to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which shall search the files of the Georgia Crime Information Center for any instance of criminal activity during the two years immediately preceding the date of the application. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation shall also submit the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the rules established by the United States Department of Justice for processing and identification of records. The federal record, if any, shall be obtained and returned to the governing authority submitting the fingerprints.

There are standards that modify this basic set of rules, and which govern how those rules are implemented.  I am reminded of a famous movie line from a Star Wars movie.  I’m not sure if it is precise (it has been years since I last saw that movie, but Darth Vader tells Lando Calrissian, “I am changing the deal.  Pray I do not change it any further.”  In Section 3-4-111.1 a tax is levied on all retail consumption establishments.

(a)  An annual occupational license tax in the amount of $100.00 is imposed upon each retail consumption dealer in this state.

(b)  The annual occupational license tax shall be paid for each place of business operated. An application for a retail consumption dealer’s license required pursuant to this title along with the payment of the tax required by subsection (a) of this Code section shall be submitted to the department immediately upon assuming control of the place of business and annually thereafter for so long as the business is operated.

However, what I am actually trying to get to in this analysis is the ordinances themselves – the “discretionary powers within the guidelines of due process set forth in this Code section as to the granting or refusal, suspension, or revocation of the permits or licenses”.  These rules are set out in City Ordinances.  To better discern what rules and guidelines apply to the idea of this business, whose appeal is more oriented toward the consumption of alcohol than food (and their liquor licenses were in danger), I looked to the Gainesville City Code of Ordinances.  Section 6-4-42 controls the granting, suspension, and revocation of licenses:

(a) Before the denial of any application for an alcoholic beverage license or for the transfer of any alcoholic beverage license or the revocation of any existing alcoholic beverage license, the applicant or licensee, as the case may be, shall be given notice in writing from the city marshal to show cause before the administrative hearing officer at a time and place specified therein not less than three (3) days nor more than thirty (30) days from the date of service of the notice, why such application for license or for transfer of license should not be denied, or why such license should not be revoked or suspended as the case may be, stating the grounds therefore, and at the appointed time and place the applicant or licensee shall have an opportunity to show cause, if any exist, why such application should not be denied or such license revoked or suspended after which the administrative hearing officer shall take such actions as he or she in his or her judgment and discretion, shall deem warranted under the facts. All decisions of the administrative hearing officer shall be in writing with reasons therefore stated and mailed or delivered to the applicant or licensee.

(b) Any person aggrieved by the action or decision of the administrative hearing officer to deny an application or request to transfer a license applied for under the provisions of this article or the revocation or suspension of a license shall have the right to appeal such action or decision to the city council within thirty (30) days after the action or decision has been mailed to the person’s address as shown on the license application form, or to his last known address.

(c) An appeal shall be taken by filing with the clerk of the city council a written statement setting forth the grounds for the appeal.

(d) The clerk shall transmit the written statement to the city manager within ten (10) days of its receipt and the city manager shall set a time and place for a hearing on the appeal before the city council.

(e) A hearing shall be set not later than thirty (30) days from the date of receipt of the appellant’s appeal.

(f) The hearing herein provided for need not be at a regular meeting of the city council, but may be at such time and place as shall be fixed in such notice of hearing.

(g) At any hearing as provided herein, the party afforded the hearing shall have the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.

(h) The hearing herein provided shall be de novo.

(i) All decisions, denying, approving, suspending or revoking any application or request for transfer or license shall be in writing with the reasons therefor stated and mailed or delivered to the applicant.

(j) The decision of the city council shall be final unless appealed by certiorari to the superior court of the county.

(k) In all instances of a denial of any application for an alcoholic beverage license or the revocation of any existing alcoholic beverage license , the applicant, licensee or any person(s) with twenty-five (25) percent or more interest, shall not reapply for a license for at least one (1) year from the final date of the denial or revocation.

(Ord. No. 2000-60, § XVIII, 9-19-00; Ord. No. 2007-24, § I, 7-3-07; Ord. No. 2010-28, § III, 8-3-10)

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