Some changes could be coming to Forsyth County’s alcohol ordinance.
Thursday, commissioners held the first of two public hearings on whether to authorize discounted drink sales and modify sanctions for employees who violate alcohol laws.
The proposed section for discounted drinks sets exceptions to the current rule that bans reduced prices for alcoholic beverages across the board for restaurants.
The proposed changes to what is sometimes known as the “happy hour ordinance” would allow a discount only if done for a full day, said Chris Hamilton, a partner in the county attorney’s law firm.
A retailer could lower the price for one alcohol category — beer, wine or liquor — and a brand within, Hamilton said.
“There’s been some discussion that the inability to authorize a reduced price in alcohol of any type in the county is possibly placing Forsyth County alcohol vendors at a disadvantage,” he said.
Two-for-one deals would still be banned if the changes are approved, Hamilton said.
Commissioner Todd Levent said local restaurant owners approached him to consider making some changes to the code. They don’t want to lose business on key days to out-of-county restaurants that can offer drink specials.
“We’re not looking to do two-for-one drinks or happy hours or anything like that,” Levent said. “It’s just to allow them to have a little bit of leverage in their business to offer certain things on daily specials.”
He added that the full day, rather than a time frame, would discourage people from drinking too much in a short period to take advantage of a discount.
Another proposed modification would change the county’s process for employees who have violated alcohol laws.
As it stands, employees found guilty of a violation in Magistrate Court also face possible suspension or revocation of their sales permit by the county commission.
The ordinance separates underage sales from other violations, considered administrative or technical. Each subsequent violation carries a longer suspension leading up to possibly revoking a permit.
For employees, underage sales carry required minimum suspensions, while the technical violations recommend punishments but commissioners can use their discretion.
In the proposed changes, first-time technical violations would be handled at the county staff level.
First-time underage sales violations would carry an automatic 30-day suspension, which is currently the minimum. Employees could appeal that suspension.
Those changes are aimed at “streamlining the process,” Hamilton said.
Commissioners spent about 30 minutes conducting the hearings and sentences for first-time violations during Thursday’s meeting, and issued minimum sentences to all.
Also in the modifications, employees would be required to attend the administrative hearing in front of the commissioners or face an automatic 90-day suspension or maximum allowed in the code for the violation.
The second public hearing, after which the commission can take action, is scheduled for June 21 for the changes to the employee sales permit section.
The second hearing for discounted drink sales is also slated for June 21.