The kerfuffle over BYOB service in Atlanta may be a bit overblown. A recent Creative Loafing report detailed a warning sent by the Georgia Restaurant Association to its members, advising of a "Bottle House" law in the city, which requires an annual $2,000 fee from restaurants that allow patrons to bring in their own alcohol. Following publication, Mayor Kasim Reed's office vehemently denied that new enforcement of the historically ignored law would occur.
"The story is absolute nonsense, and has no basis in fact whatsoever," read a statement issued from the mayor's office to Creative Loafing. "There is no 'crackdown' on bottle house permits. An ordinance for such a permit has existed for at least 20 years in the City of Atlanta, and there has been no recent policy change or directive, to step up enforcement. In fact, the Atlanta Police Department's License & Permits Unit has not issued a citation for failure to have a bottle permit in recent memory, and certainly not in 2014. It's very unfortunate that this false narrative appears to have gained traction throughout the restaurant community, and we sincerely hope it can be laid to rest immediately."
Rachel Bell, marketing and communications manager for the GRA, says the issue has likely been blown out of proportion. "We were just made aware of this information through one of our partners," she said. "Someone informed us of this increased enforcement of BYOB, one of our legal partners, so all we were doing as an organization was informing our members and just alerting them and letting them know: be alert, be aware that this could potentially happen. I think that it escalated a little bit and people took it the wrong way.
Bell declined to disclose the name of the partner who informed the GRA of possible Bottle House enforcement. "We heard what the mayor's office said, and honestly, we're delighted to hear that. We don't want there to be enforcement of the Bottle House license, and we hope that remains to be true."
The Alcohol Technical Advisory Group II a year ago recommended to the Atlanta City Council that the Bottle House license be taken off the books, but the local government did not act. "We hope that the City Council follows the recommendations of ATAG," said Bell, "and clarifies this whole Bottle House license requirement in the city code so we can avoid this whole potential confusion in the future."
No one from the mayor's office of communications was available for comment. Got something to say about these policies? Leave a comment or visit the tipline.
· Two Sides to the BYOB Story [CL]
· All BYOB Coverage [-EATL-]