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DDA discusses parking, small bar ordinance

Thursday, Mar. 9, 2023–1:50 p.m.

-David Crowder, WRGA News-

As the Rome City Commission gets ready to consider a ‘small bar’ ordinance for a second time, the topic was brought up during Thursday’s Rome Downtown Development Authority meeting.

Aundi Lesley

The proposed ordinance being recommended by the Rome Alcohol Control Commission seeks to eliminate the 50-50 food-to-drink ratio for liquor sales with some restrictions.

The establishments would have to be small — no more than 1,800 square feet, or 2,200 square feet with outside service. Additionally, they can only serve from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; can’t charge an admission fee; and any entertainment must be preapproved by the Alcohol Control Commission.

One issue that has been raised is the fairness to other alcohol establishments that have to meet the 50-50 ratio.

There is also the issue of a reduced liquor pouring license fee for small bars that is a part of the ordinance.

DDA Director Aundi Lesley said she has spoken to several downtown businesses to get input, and the feedback has run the gamut with some opposed, while others had a more neutral opinion.

“Alcohol is one of those things that can be polarizing anyway,” Lesley said. “When you’re talking about how it impacts existing businesses, it can be even more polarizing. Our role as the DDA is to make sure that we are here to support the small businesses as best we can.”

Lesley added that it’s hard to say whether the ordinance would be a good thing or a bad thing.

“It’s almost one of those things that have to be taken on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “It’s difficult. It’s a tough discussion to have. We want to be progressive in moving forward, but we also want to protect the integrity of downtown and the businesses we have now.”

Lesley said one area of consensus among the establishments she spoke with is that all of them would like to see a reduction in the liquor pouring fees for everyone, regardless of size.

DDA gets update on downtown parking study

It’s been a week since the three-hour parking limit on Broad Street was suspended as part of a study, and the Rome Downtown Development Authority got an update Thursday.

DDA Director Aundi Lesley told the board that there has been some misconception about the purpose of the study. Although it has been called a parking study, the focus is more on tracking customer behavior.

“If they are allowed to par longer without the threat of a ticket, would they take advantage of that and if they do are they spending more money and it is benefitting our businesses,” Lesley said. “We will have a general customer survey we will put out at some point. In the meantime, we are tracking this very closely with our businesses, so we can understand if it is hurting them or benefitting them.”

Since the suspension of the time limit on parking has only been in effect for a week, there is not a lot of data. However, there are some early trends.

“We find that the businesses that need quick turnover are not really in favor of the study,” Lesley said. “Those businesses that have clients that come in and will spend several hours are naturally in favor of the study. It’s kind of the nature of the game, I guess.”

There have been some concerns about the cost and other aspects of the study, but Lesley stressed that everything is being done in-house.