Mayor and Council-
The South Fulton Business Coalition and Camp Creek Business Association have reviewed the current ordinance, proposed ordinance and changes recommended by Alexia Ryan. Our organization supports the changes proposed by Ms. Ryan. We will highlight particulars of our support.
First, we do not support an increase to fees on servers. While state law does not require such, we have grave concerns about increasing fees on employees who are already making on average $2.13 hourly. Granted, their industry relies on tips and gratuities, one should not be unfairly targeted to generate revenue. Employees in this pay scale also have to consider the implications of Obamacare on their paychecks in the future. Often times, servers are college students, working class adults and those working second employment to make ends meet.
In addition, the city needs to remove the prohibition on ‘Happy Hour’ specials for the bars. Atlanta was wrong when they adopted this and East Point does not need to continue such. Councilwoman Sharonda Hubbard made a valid point during our recent meeting of East Point being one of few cities that has the airport in their backyard. Given that, we need to make sure we are place where tourists, locals and professionals can come enjoy themselves. We need to stop always being so quick to send funds to Atlanta. Yes, East Point is a suburban city but does not sit in the middle of nowhere. By allowing businesses in your city to generate additional revenue, it yields additional revenue for the city.
We recognize that the city is currently reviewing their budget for the upcoming fiscal year. We initially had a hard nose stance of no support for any increases of fees. We acknowledge that residents along with businesses are paying increased utility fees. While Mayor Earnestine Pittman stated during the last Council meeting that most businesses could recoup the fees within a few weeks of sales. We agree with her to a point. The SFBC prides itself in supporting the ‘mom and pop’ style businesses in South Fulton and we want to make sure they are not being priced out of the market. Corporate chains and large firms are able to eat additional costs while a smaller business has to make tough decisions.
With that being said, we would support graduated increases in fees with respect to volume and size of the business. We want to encourage and promote startup entrepreneurship in all parts of South Fulton. One of our missions in some of the corridors is promoting new startups to serve places where national chains have abandoned ship. Ryan recommended that fees be considered separately in the future via resolution rather than changing an entire ordinance. In addition, the CCBA and SFBC strongly recommend that any proposed fee increases receive ample notice for the businesses and organizations such as ours to have time to review and discuss. Just as citizens are given time to voice their opinions and study matters, business should be afforded this as well.
Secondly, the city has worked hard to revive Downtown East Point and grow the Camp Creek commercial corridor. We support the concept of a reduced fee incentive for the CR Commercial Redevelopment Zone for the Main Street corridor. Councilman Alexander Gothard has been steadfast in support for the continued redevelopment of Downtown. We agree with Ryan on using this as a tool to continue to encourage business activity. With a MARTA station, proposed MARTA services for Clayton County being considered (the station has a stub pointed towards service to Clayton via Hapeville) and the serious discussions of commuter rail, now is the time to position Downtown East Point with business friendly policies.
Councilmembers LaTonya Martin and Jacqueline Slaughter Gibbons frequently call for East Point to get in the business of the future and out of the business of tomorrow. Keeping in that spirit, we think it’s time for some innovation in handling of the ordinance. We see no problems with the current serving hours for alcohol in the city. As far as we know, there have been no reports of late night operations of bars and clubs that have wrecked havoc on city communities. There have been no calls by East Point Police officials for the policymaking council to modify laws and ordinances to address such. A major problem of government is solving problems by creating new problems. East Point should not engage in such.
Therefore, to satisfy city budget concerns and to keep businesses open, we support the creation of supplemental permits for Sunday Sales and After Hours operations. Ryan calls for the closure of all on premise consumption based at 2am. While we initially stated we did not support any changes to serving hours for East Point businesses, we are willing to compromise with an after-hours permit for businesses to pour until 5am (provided that costs are reasonable for businesses to justify the cost of paying the fee) and Sunday Sales for alcohol sales for establishments (again if costs are reasonable).
In addition to encourage more businesses to locate and setup shop in East Point, we support the implementation of OCGA 3-11-3 of ‘non-resident caterer’ fees. This would encourage facilities to promote East Point based caterers and stimulate the local economy. If local caterers are doing well, they can hire more local residents and assist in putting America back to work.
When we think of alcohol, the conversation must extend beyond package stores, restaurants, bars, clubs and food marts. The city needs to start expanding its horizon to look at having local breweries and home-brew special events. This will enable the city continue to promote itself as a choice for tourism and visitation. Thus, adding more revenue to the local economy.
I urge you as Mayor and Council to be reminded of what started this conversation, which was an issue involving planning and zoning. Councilman Lance Rhodes did an excellent job of pointing out how this ordinance was a simple rewrite of the City of Atlanta's ordinance. The ordinance as currently proposed does not address any of the original concerns but creates new problems. The Mayor was quoted in a recent media article about the city needing ‘every penny it can get’, and her plea will go ignored if businesses are being pushed out of East Point.
Hopefully, the recommendations of Ryan that are endorsed by both the SFBC and CCBA will be considered and adopted.
Yours for a revived South Fulton
Executive Director/Founder, South Fulton Business Coalition
President, Camp Creek Business Association