-

Alcohol sales ordinance scrutinzed

The Jasper County Council seeks to amend Chapter Four of the alcoholic beverages ordinance in its code of ordinances to clarify the law prohibiting alcohol sales in Jasper between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Alcohol sales on Sundays were proposed to help add economic activity and increase money in the county in November 2015, and 63 percent of county residents voted in favor of the referendum.

But the current code of ordinances, Chapter Four, has yet to be updated to include Sundays.

According to the code: “Commercial establishments which allow for the on-premises consumption of beer, ale, porter, and/or wine shall be prohibited from operating between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on Mondays through Saturdays.”

“The thought was that the existing ordinance did not take into account that Sunday alcohol sales had been authorized, and to make the ordinance match the newer statutes that prohibit sales after 2 a.m. on Sundays,” County Attorney David Tedder said in an email.

The issue was brought to the attention of the council by the sheriff’s office. A public hearing for the amendment (by title only) was held at the May 1 council meeting.

“The issue is this, as of right now, clubs, for many years, have operated whenever. Clubs are staying open late and not abiding by the county ordinance. They make most of their money between 2 a.m and 6 a.m,” Sheriff Chris Malphrus said. “We have a situation where Highway 17 (which features two nightclubs near the Talmadge Bridge) is a major safety issue — people are parking on one side and walking across the street — causing major accidents.”

For bars and clubs, the alcohol ban between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. hinders those businesses during their “busy hours,” including Sundays.

Malphrus said his office has received complaints about the clubs being open late. He said that operating outside of the set hours creates risks: It’s unsafe for the consumers of alcohol because they have to then drive or walk home on a dangerous road, and it’s a liability for the clubs.

Jacqueline Somesso, owner of Club Karma on U.S. 17, appeared before the council, asking for the county to “work with them” to help find ways to keep the club open.

“I’m asking that we do find a compromise,” said Somesso, who said she’s had business in Jasper County since 1999.

According to Malphrus, the 2 a.m last call was not strictly enforced by the previous administration in the sheriff’s office and that leniency is part of the reason there is a problem.

“We want to come up with a solution to fix these problems. We are willing to work with (the clubs),” Malphrus said.

Malphrus said he’s willing to find a solution to satisfy all parties, and he suggested letting clubs apply for special-event permits. Businesses could receive one permit per quarter for a specific date or a weekend. Only during that time could the club keep its doors open past 2 a.m. Malphrus said the permit likely wouldn’t allow for alcohol sales until 6 a.m., but would set a specific time frame.

Malphrus said deputies recently responded to a stabbing at a club in Hardeeville at 6 a.m.

“It’s not working and we have to change it,” Malphrus said.

Comments