Glynn County commissioners are unsure if the county should move forward with a proposed alcohol delivery ordinance.
Commissioner Cap Fendig, who represents St. Simons Island, is among them. He reiterated his stance on Monday, saying he saw the ordinance from the beginning as a short-term solution to the challenges restaurants are facing in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With Florida re-opening and other states reopening, hopefully Georgia will do the same and we’ll see if this ordinance is needed or not,” Fendig said. “There are a lot of things about it that I don’t like, like enforceability and the potential for corruption. I was even a little reluctant about the restaurants, so it has a two-edged effect if we move forward with it.”
It was a topic of much debate at a recent commission meeting, with some breaking on the subject of which establishments should benefit.
State law allows counties to pass alcohol delivery ordinances governing restaurants, bars, package stores, gas stations and grocery stores. Package stores could be allowed to deliver beer, wine and distilled spirits, while the other establishments would be limited to just beer and wine.
While thinking along the same lines as Fendig, Commissioner Bill Brunson said the fact that other states are lifting restrictions is no guarantee they won’t be imposed again.
“You look at Texas opening the whole thing up,” Brunson said. “I just don’t know. You could have another spike. There’s just too many variables for me to comment one way or another.”
A majority of commissioners favored giving restaurants the right to deliver alcohol and leaving the others out.
That didn’t sit right with At-large Commissioner Walter Rafolski.
“If you’re going to open it up, you’ve got to open it up to everyone,” Rafolski said. “You can’t tell one group they can do it and one group they can’t.”
Like with Fendig, for Rafolski it has always been a method to assist businesses going through troubled times. If it looks like the state is going to lift COVID-related restrictions on restaurant occupancy, Rafolski would not support the ordinance.
“The whole premise to it was to help the restaurants out when they’re in trouble. If they’re at full capacity then they’re not in trouble,” Rafolski said.
Robert Kicklighter, owner of Georgia Driver’s Education and RUShh Delivery, is among those advocating for an ordinance allowing alcohol delivery.
When the pandemic shut down in-person classes, Kicklighter, also a college professor, looked to other means of making a profit. He worked for other delivery services before ultimately founding his own.
“When we are doing these deliveries we noticed how these restaurants were struggling,” Kicklighter told The News on Friday. “All the stores are struggling and it’s hard to see people losing their jobs ... I realized that, hey, this is another stream of revenue for these businesses that’s going to help them keep their businesses.”
People losing their jobs is why he asked commissioners to consider the ordinance. But leaving out the other four types of establishments would be counterproductive, he said, and fail to limit further job loss.
State law provides enough rules and restrictions to address most worries citizens may have, he said. Businesses can only deliver alcohol if they hold an alcohol license and they must keep a registry of deliveries, among other things. Drivers must be at least 21 years old, take a special training course and card anyone who accepts a delivery.
The ordinance also presented more positives than just another way for restaurants to make money, Kicklighter said. Fewer drunk drivers on the road, for one.
But alcohol delivery is already happening in Glynn County, and it’s practically impossible to effectively police, he explained. Placing restrictions on it would allow some modicum of control by authorities and give others the ability to compete.
“Even if these CDC requirements are lifted, people are going to rely on delivery,” Kicklighter said. “There’s going to be variants on this virus, and it’s good to have these procedures in place if we have to shut down the economy in the future.”