Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday issued an administrative order suspending penalties on late renewals of 2021 alcohol licenses for Atlanta restaurants, bars, retailers, and other businesses that sell beer, wine, liquor, and mixed drinks.
“The Order is designed to help mitigate the financial impact and hardships caused by COVID-19 on Atlanta businesses,” the press release reads.
Bottoms asks city officials to refrain from enforcing penalties or the initiation of due cause proceedings on late renewals from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021. An alcohol license from the city covers a full year and costs individual Atlanta restaurants and bars $5,000 in order to serve to the public, with additional fees for services such as package sales and offering on-premise tastings.
Alcohol license renewals were due to the city by December 31, 2020 for the upcoming year. Under Section 10-109 of the city’s Code of Ordinances, businesses which do not renew on time face “progressive penalties.” This includes a $2,500 fine and the suspension of the alcohol license for up to 180 days. A third offense results in revocation of the license.
It appears from the order restaurants and bars could opt to delay paying the renewal of the alcohol license through the end of the year. However, this means paying both the 2021 and 2022 licensing fees by December 31. It’s unclear why this order wasn’t issued prior to the December 31, 2020 deadline and before restaurants and bars had begun the renewal process and paid for the licenses.
Eater is working to clarify the city’s decision to announce the suspension of penalties after the December 31, 2020 deadline.
Ahead of the end-of-year deadline, and still reeling from pandemic-related financial losses over the course of 2020, Atlanta establishments like Manuel’s Tavern and Cabbagetown restaurant JenChan’s Delivery Supper Club set up GoFundMe campaigns to help offset the costs of license renewals, rent, insurance, and a variety of other fees coming due at the end of December. Despite raising the funds needed for its alcohol license renewal, JenChan’s owners Jen and Emily Chan announced the temporary suspension of the restaurant side of the business. For now, the Chans plan to continue preparing meals in the restaurant’s Carroll Street kitchen for JenChan’s online food delivery service.
“The restaurant side of our business is just not cutting it (allowing only one or two tables in at a time is not the most fantastic way to make money, but it is what we feel is safest),” the Chans write in a Facebook post. “With it getting colder and colder outside and our lack of a parking lot to load with heaters, we don’t really see a way to stay open to the public - especially with the numbers increasing at such an alarming rate.”
In December, the Atlanta City Council unanimously approved an ordinance permitting restaurants and bars to offer seating on city streets in order to “provide safe, socially distant outdoor dining spaces” during the pandemic. The new outdoor dining permit requires street seating to be located directly in front of or adjacent to a restaurant or bar. The permit, obtained from the Atlanta Department of Transportation, is good through the end of 2021. For now, ATLDOT plans to waive the permit fee.
Construction should begin soon on six covered and heated outdoor dining compartments in three parking spaces in front of Buckhead Italian restaurant Storico Fresco. The new dining compartments add 32 to 40 seats outside. The covered patio at Storico Fresco currently seats around 20 people.