Panel OK's package sales closer to college campusesBy WALTER C. JONES
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Legislation allowing packaged-alcohol sales closer to college campuses than the current 200-yard limit easily passed in a state Senate committee Wednesday.
Athens legislators sponsored House Bill 517 because they say major grocery companies won’t locate a store in their downtown if they can’t sell bottles and cans of beer and wine.
The primary sponsor, Rep. Chuck Williams, R-Athens, had offered to change the version the House approved by adding limits on the size store and prohibiting gasoline sales. But Wednesday, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee voted down those limits.
“I own a grocery store of 5,000 square feet, and I have everything you could need,” said committee member Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon. “... It seems to me you dictate who can come in.”
Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, told the committee that local governments could still restrict the types of stores selling packaged alcohol just as they already do for alcohol sold by the drink near colleges.
“It’s difficult enough (on businesses) in our zoning world. I don’t see the need to add the space requirements,” he said, adding that a Quick Trip convenience store would have been blocked by the 8,000-square-foot minimum store size even though the House an hour earlier had honored the company for being an exemplary employer.
The committee voted 9-2 to send the bill to the full Senate for consideration. If the Rules Committee agrees, that vote could be early next week.