MOULTRIE -- In a meeting that became heated at times, the Moultrie City Council's Alcohol Ordinance Committee continued discussions Tuesday about changing the city's alcohol ordinance. The committee left the meeting saying they needed to discuss the ordinance more thoroughly before its final public reading.

City Manager Bob Hopkins said the changes to the ordinance are only proposals at the moment. The ordinance itself will not be changed until after the third public reading and the full city council votes to approve the changes.

The committee met May 31 to discuss changes to clarify the ordinance, and the city council approved the first and second reading of those changes at the council meeting June 7. The council had planned to hold the third and final reading at the council meeting June 21, but Hopkins said the meeting Tuesday created issues the committee needs to look into before making its final proposals to the full council.

City Attorney Mickey Waller told the committee that any store caught selling alcohol to minors can have both the salesperson and license holder charged under Georgia state law. The committee, however, decided to keep the current system of bringing charges only against the salesperson while the license holder faces penalties from the city council.

A proposed change to the ordinance is to eliminate the differences in penalties for license holders who are or are not members of the Moultrie Responsible Vendors Association (MRVA). Hopkins said the change should be done because a violation of the law is a violation of the law.

Becky Kenyon, president of MRVA, said the differences in penalties should remain because the change would discourage store owners from going through the MRVA's training program. Without the difference in penalties for those who have joined and trained with MRVA, no one would go through the program at all, she said.

The liquor store owners created the MRVA in 1992 to help themselves, and Kenyon said it has helped immensely with store owners knowing the law and penalties for violations. Since the MRVA was created, only one or two member stores have been caught selling alcohol to a minor during annual Moultrie Police Department alcohol buys operations, she said.

Hopkins said a possible incentive to ensure liquor license holders know selling alcohol to minors is illegal would be to increase the fine for stores caught in violation.

Bill Simpson, a liquor license holder and store owner, said ensuring salespeople know the penalties for selling alcohol to minors will heighten their awareness to checking identifications. Once someone knows their livelihood will be affected for violating the law, they will reconsider selling to a minor.

Simpson and Kenyon said they feel the proposed changes to the ordinance punish the store owner more than the salesperson who actually sold to a minor. If the proposed changes to the ordinance are enacted, Kenyon said the MRVA should be dissolved because there will be little need for a liquor sales training program.

The committee and store owners also discussed proposed changes to the duration of beer cards, paperwork that allows a salesperson to sell alcohol. The proposal would require beer cards be renewed every year, but Kenyon said that is too short a time period for beer card holders.

The committee, however, felt the annual renewals were adequate, but they will re-examine it and the other concerns brought from Kenyon and Simpson at a future meeting.

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