Council President Moore Provides Atlanta Update for Restaurateurs
On Friday, January 8, the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) hosted an Exclusive Webinar with City of Atlanta Council President Felicia Moore moderated by Karen Bremer, CEO of the GRA, and GRA Board Member Richard Tang, Owner of Tang Hospitality. Below, you can find a summary of all the topics that were discussed:
3 City Priorities for 2021 – PUBLIC SAFETY, PUBLIC SAFETY, PUBLIC SAFETY!
Crime is rising throughout Atlanta that needs to be addressed. Though it is mainly reported in the Buckhead and Midtown area, incidents are becoming a problem throughout the entire city. Many of these incidents occur at bars and nightclubs and other establishments that pose as restaurants. In addition, the bad actors of this group are not reporting proper alcohol sales tax and not following the proper guidelines issued by the Governor’s Executive Order. How is the City combating this issue & going to hold these bad actors accountable?
Council President Moore’s response:
- In 2020, City of Atlanta Council passed legislation to sample audit these establishments to have a better understanding on how these establishments find ways to operate improperly. The audits are to be conducted by the City of Atlanta’s CFO. I will be requesting follow up and updates. If City Council needs to do more to help this happen, we will.
- In terms of addressing the violent crimes, there are other issues that need to be looked at as well. In December of 2020, Mayor Bottoms issued an Administrative Order to strengthen and streamline efforts to address nuisance properties or activities that are a threat to public health, welfare and safety, and that may contribute to violent crimes. I believe this will help. In addition, we are also trying to find ways to retain and recruit more first responders on all levels. Though the Atlanta Police Department play a significant role, the Fire Department is also working hard as they are normally the first people on the scene when a crime is reported to check and take care of any possible victims. All of first responders are working hard but are stretched thin and we need to find ways to support them. Also, the Court System needs to be looked at. Government Facilities have altered the operation protocols due to COVID-19 and we need to make sure that people who commit violent crimes and felonies are not being let back onto the streets quickly.
- Once audits are complete and Council has more information about what all is happening, we can move forward and look into what possible legislation is needed to help. We want to make sure that we do not loop good actors with the bad actors. Also, I am working with Governor Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan to discuss possibly allowing more flexibility to City’s on enforcement of the Executive Order. This could allow the City to take action more quickly on these bad actors that continue to not follow the proper health protocols and guidelines.
Many other cities have taken quick action to help restaurants with their alcohol license. Some have waived penalties, fund grants to be given to restaurants and other businesses, offer payment plans, while others have reduced the fees altogether. What is the City of Atlanta doing?
Council President Moore’s Response:
- On Monday, January 4th, Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong introduced legislation that would waive late penalties on Alcohol Licenses. The same day, Mayor Bottoms announced an Administrative Order that will waive late fees for alcohol licenses. This does not mean businesses should not start the process to obtain their proper alcohol license. Until the legislation is passed by City Council, the Administrative Order is what everyone should be following. No other assistance has been discussed in depth as of today, discussions can happen that could include alcohol licensing payment plans, credits to license since businesses were shut down in 2020, and more because legislation involving this issue has been introduced. (The GRA will work to get these discussions going and possibly inserted into the proposed legislation.)
Restaurants are thankful they have been able to engage in to-go sales of beer & wine through the Mayor’s Executive Order. Once the Order is finished, restaurants would need to purchases a $5,000 beer & wine package license to do this. Would the City Consider changing the code so restaurants can obtain that license at little to no cost?
The Mayor is allowed to extend her order at her own discretion. However, if she does decide not to extend this then we can consider legislation to address this issue. We can work with you on sample language and see where it goes from there. (The GRA will work on this issue with Council President Moore & the rest of City Council. If codified, this would also open the doors for restaurants to engage in Alcohol Delivery if they so choose).
Obtaining an alcohol license has been an issue since pre-COVID. Many times, everything has been completed but there is a delay in obtaining the Mayor’s signature. Is there any way to change that and make it similar to other cities and states that do not have this issue occur?
City of Atlanta Charter states that the Executive Office gives final approval on licensing. Mayor Bottoms has been more flexible on this by allowing certain designees give approval to speed up the process.
City Hall/Government Functions
COVID-19 forced City Hall to shut down and everything has since been done remotely. Though things started ok, there has since been many issues popping up. Getting in touch with someone to help with licensing and inspections has been increasingly harder. In addition, websites for accepting payments not functioning, thus causing further delays. Some businesses are starting to do things on their own without permits and the City will not check. What can the City do about all this?
Council President Moore’s Response
- I will look into these issues. At the beginning, I was hearing things were going well with everything online. Technology is very important, especially since we are not in our offices physically.
- In regards to the improper construction without a permit, my staff will inquire about this issue.
What is the process of using parking spaces and store front for additional seating. Is there a charge? What is the process?
- Permits are to be obtained through the Department of Transportation. There is a $250 fee. I will reach out to see when the application will be online.
CARES Act Assistance
With New CARES Act money coming, what is the possibility of having some of the funds designated specifically for restaurants? What is the process on how money is distributed?
Council President Moore’s Response
- Generally, the Mayor designates how the money will be distributed and City Council approves. The only specific industry fund I can remember was for Beauty and Barber shops. Invest Atlanta has been the conduit to distribute funds. I am not sure how helpful that will be and I would recommend anyone looking for assistance to reach out to them and see if there are still funds available.
Invest Atlanta (IA) application has been a little challenging. There have been issues where a business gets approved but then IA reaches out saying they need this or that again. As an example, Richard Tang had been approved twice by Invest Atlanta, but then they reached out saying he needed to send certain documentation again (third or fourth time) and he has still not received any funding. What can City Council do?
- Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon issue. It is on Council’s list to figure out why this is happening. Hopefully, we can figure this out and get money to those who need it.
We thank Council President Moore for taking the time to speak with us and address issues to our restaurateurs. We will continue to reach out to y’all and the Mayor on what our industry is going through and how the City can assist. Do you have any words of wisdom on how we can be more effective with our outreach?
Council President Moore’s response
- You should definitely keep reaching out to the Mayor. I would also look into reaching out to the other leaders like COO of Atlanta with ideas and issues. In addition, you should CC me and the rest of City Council on these communications so we can see and possibly act as well. We are all in this together. Also, restaurants should be happy to have you (Karen Bremer) be your voice. You have been a great champion for your industry.