The Athens-Clarke County mayor and Board of Commissioners held a special called session Friday morning to approve a settlement with local bar owners related to the recent adoptions of a mask ordinance requirement for public and commercial spaces and an ordinance changing the hours of alcohol sales and closing times for retail by the drink licensees.
Western Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Eric Norris assisted in negotiations that led to the settlement.
The Athens-Clarke County mask ordinance requiring masks in public places and commercial establishments will remain in place in full force as adopted on Aug. 4.
Last call for by the drink retail establishments will be moved from 2:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., while bars must be cleared by midnight.
The county had sought to change last call to 10 p.m., but attorneys representing five bars in downtown Athens obtained a temporary restraining order.
The ordinance that changes hours for by-the-drink retail service will remain in effect until five days after the statewide judicial emergency ends. A fifth order extending the statewide judicial emergency was issued by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton on August 11 and currently is in place until September 10. The statewide judicial emergency has been in place since March and may be extended.
To assist bars in dealing with their projected loss of revenue resulting from the early closing, the county will reducreduce license fees for 2021 and 2022 to $1500 for liquor and $450 for wine and beer and also make certain concessions on penalties and interest for bar excise taxes.
"Both sides had confidence in their legal position in the upcoming hearing, but both sides believe this is a reasonable settlement to protect public safety and maintain the viability of businesses and the protection of their employees in physical and economic terms," the county said in a statement.