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Que’n in Cumming secures beer/wine permit

City council reverses previous stance in 5-0 vote

POSTED: November 8, 2013 12:29 a.m.

It appears the National Barbecue Cup: Que’n in Cumming will be the first event at the Cumming Fairgrounds where alcohol sales will be allowed after all.

The Cumming City Council reversed course Thursday night and voted 5-0 to rescind its decision from two days earlier to deny a special permit to sell beer and wine at the large outdoor barbecue competition next weekend.

“I want to make a motion to rescind the vote and correct the mistake that was made on Nov. 5, and included in that motion would be to issue the permit,” said Councilman Rupert Sexton, who ironically had led the opposition Tuesday.

The measure was seconded by Councilman Ralph Perry, who had also previously spoken out against approving the permit due to concerns that alcohol sales would tarnish the fairgrounds’ reputation as a family-friendly venue.

Thursday’s turn of events capped a turbulent week for city leaders, who held two rare called meetings over a three-day span, and initially appeared to have gone against the very ordinance they had amended last month to allow such special permits.

Que’n in Cumming, set for Nov. 15 and 16, has steadily grown in popularity over its first two years. In 2012, the two-day gathering drew more than 18,000 people.

But founder and lead organizer Randall Bowman, a Forsyth County resident, had indicated the permit was key to securing sponsorships and ensuring the long-term stability of the event.

After the council’s vote Tuesday, which came 10 days before the competition was to begin, Bowman threatened legal action against the city. He also speculated that the event might have to leave the community after 2013 if it couldn’t secure a permit.

Before any litigation could occur, the city revisited the matter Thursday.

The proceedings began with the five councilmen and Mayor H. Ford Gravitt entering into an executive session with city attorneys to discuss “pending and threatened litigation.”

After about 45 minutes huddled behind closed doors, they returned and the meeting reconvened.

Following the vote, Gravitt thanked the councilmen for “coming back and correcting an issue that [he] felt should have been done Tuesday.”

While they were not present due to an out-of-state business commitment, Gravitt also apologized to the Bowman family.

“I think when all of the criteria is met on an application and in the best interest of the city, I agree with the council wholeheartedly, and I want to apologize to the Bowman family for the inconvenience or anything that may have happened during this couple of days that we got back here for reconsideration,” he said.

“I can see where they had a threat of litigation and certainly you might think that might play a big part [in reconsidering the previous vote]. But the council felt like they, with the additional information they had in reference to the cup event, that we are pro-business in the city of Cumming and we don’t want to be looked at any other way.”

Reached by phone Thursday night in Las Vegas, where he is working at the World Food Championships, Bowman seemed relieved by the news.

“We’re ecstatic that they changed their minds,” he said, although he noted that some damage may have already been incurred after the original vote. 

He said he had to cancel a partnership with Budweiser, which along with Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative in Cumming and Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta, was scheduled to serve at the event’s beer garden.

“I am going to make my call to Anheuser Busch and see if I can salvage that [sponsorship] after we had already cancelled.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re going to give it a shot.”

Tuesday night, the council voted 4-1 to deny the permit despite caution from attorneys that the city might not have a legal basis for doing so. Councilman Quincy Holton was the lone dissenting vote.

The council had previously heard from city staff, who reported that all necessary paperwork, background checks and fees had been properly completed by Bowman’s wife, Amanda.

His mother, Pam, also addressed the council that night, sharing with them how the family was taking strong precautions to ensure beer sales would not impede the event’s nature.


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