Rome’s Alcohol Control Commission is recommending a rebate/refund of the alcohol fees paid by area restaurant owners during the pandemic closings. The recommendation from the ACC’s Monday night meeting now goes to the finance committee and, if successful, to the City Commission.
The decision comes exactly a week after the City Commission, in a 5-3 vote, rejected a 60-day trial of open container allowances in the downtown district, a move unanimously backed by the ACC to help restaurants recover from losses sustained while closed or else operating under limited conditions during the height of the shelter-in-place order. Some restaurants resorted to curbside and delivery service, with some alcohol sales for curbside pickup.
ACC member Collin Doss was critical of the City Commission’s vote, both last week and at Monday’s ACC meeting. Doss chastised the City Commission for ignoring its own appointed advisory groups, such as the ACC, the Downtown Development Authority and district business owners who have invested millions along Broad and adjoining streets.
During the June 8 meeting, City Commissioner Mark Cochran advocated the open container push while City Commissioner Wendy Davis presented comments from Georgia municipal leaders attesting to its success — and safety. However, several area pastors and others spoke against the proposal while slightly more representatives spoke in favor. Opposing commissioners said they feared it would mean more police would have to be diverted downtown to handle patrons rather than on patrol in other areas.
After the vote, Cochran called on the city to both rebate the alcohol fees paid by the downtown businesses to help partially recover the money they lost during the closings and restricted sales. He also said he’s pushing to remove the Business Improvement District tax downtown owners pay; that revenue is used, in part, for downtown promotions.