Distance Question on Alcohol Heading to the Ballot

Graphic of alcoholic beverage with food in the back

Updated: Commissioner Whitfield did not sign the proposed resolution during the 2/13/20 meeting. The proposal fails for lack of a signature.

LaFayette, GA – Following over a month of discussion in the community, the question of how much distance there should be between a church and a restaurant that serves alcohol may be decided by the public.

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield plans to sign a resolution at his meeting on February 13th calling for the following binding question to be placed on the May 19th ballot:

Shall the governing authority of Walker County reduce the distance requirement from the front door of a church building to the front door of a bona fide eating establishment (as defined in Chapter 6 of the Walker County Code of Ordinances) from 300 feet to 150 feet for on-premise consumption of malt beverages, wine, and distilled spirits in the unincorporated areas of Walker County?”

(  ) Yes
(  ) No

Commissioner Whitfield decided on the ballot question as a compromise between those who wanted to eliminate all distance requirements and those who want the 300 foot buffer to remain.

“This issue first came to my attention when a local restaurant owner was unable to obtain a license to sell alcohol because his business was located 297.5 feet from a church,” said Commissioner Whitfield. “Several business owners in similar situations have since reached out to me. I have also spoken with many residents and local pastors who prefer the distance requirement in relation to churches remain at 300 feet. We all desire more dining opportunities in Walker County.”

The ballot question only deals with the distance requirement between churches and restaurants. Chapter 6 of the County Code of Ordinances defines a bona fide eating establishment as “any public place selling prepared food for consumption to the public on the premises, containing a minimum of 1,200 square feet of heated space devoted to eating and food preparation with a minimum of 25% of any such area to be devoted to kitchen and food preparation area, which derives at 51% of its total annual gross sales from the sale of prepared meals.”

“Along with helping existing businesses, the ability to attract new full-service dining opportunities in Walker County continues to be an important piece of economic development,” said Robert Wardlaw, Economic and Community Development Director. “As we grow as a county and attract more tourists, it’s vital that businesses have flexibility with real estate to invest here. New restaurants will enhance our sales tax revenue stream and reduce pressure off of property taxes.”

Wardlaw added, “In order to capitalize on Walker Rocks and the natural attractions that bring visitors to Walker County, we need lodging and dining. Creating a business friendly environment makes us more attractive to potential investors.”

Existing distance requirements impacting bars, taverns and package stores would remain unchanged.  In addition, the State of Georgia has established distance requirements for schools and housing authority properties, while the County has established distance requirements for schools, hospitals, nursing rest homes and alcohol treatment centers.

A complete copy of Chapter 6 of the Walker County Code of Ordinances is available to view on the county’s website.

7 thoughts on “Distance Question on Alcohol Heading to the Ballot

  1. According to what I’ve read, not only churches are involved, but also daycares, alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities, schools, (including colleges), and housing authority properties. This article is totally misleading. It seems as if they’re trying to make churches the enemy! Report the entire story, please. And I am against removing the buffer zone, Commissioner.

    1. The State of Georgia already has established distance requirements for schools and housing authority properties. The County also has established distance requirements for schools, hospitals, nursing rest homes and alcohol treatment centers.

      1. Commissioner Whitfield decided on 2/13 to not put the question on the ballot, so there will be no changes. Distance requirements pertaining to schools would also pertain to churches with schools. There are no specific distance requirements at a state or local level pertaining to daycares.

  2. As this article states in the beginning, “business owner” may not refer to the property owner, so all of the property owners and church members in that area should speak up. insurance would describe the sale of alcohol or an amusement park as a “public nuisance” I would not want it any closer than a half mile of my house or church.

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