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Booze gets OK at Sawnee Center
Vendors can pur drinks at private functions
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Forsyth County News

News for those toasting celebratory social gatherings at Sawnee Mountain Preserve Visitor Center: Those glasses soon can hold real champagne.

The newest event license agreement for the park facility north of Cumming includes the option for event holders to serve alcohol at wedding receptions and other ceremonies.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the idea is to "make this facility much more attractive to people that want to use it for those sorts of events."

The issue, which had been postponed Jan. 13, divided the commission at a work session Tuesday. Commissioners Jim Harrell and Charles Laughinghouse voted against the measure.

"I'm not quite ready to go down that road on county property," said Commissioner Jim Harrell, who voiced concern that the agreement could steer future decisions.

"Any danger of this being a precedent setter, if people want to rent downstairs [in the county administration building] and they want to serve alcohol there?" Harrell asked Jarrard.

The attorney told Harrell that the board would "retain the discretion ... as the governing body that controls county facilities to set the parameters."

"I have a feeling," Jarrard continued, "with respect to any county government facilities, that the answer would be absolutely no."

Liability was another issue that concerned commissioners.

Jarrard said he was "comfortable with [the county's] protections in the documents."

"The real issue, commissioners, is do you want to try it?" he asked.

Jarrard said the county was covered by a typical standard security deposit and agreement for the facility, a general indemnity obligation and agreement between the county and the alcohol vendor that insured it.

The event license agreement states that only authorized vendors may serve at the Spot Road facility. Jarrard said that means "an alcohol vendor that is in good standing with the county and the city."

"One thing you might want to think about is going ahead and approving this and just see how it works," Jarrard said. "Test it for a year."

Jim Boff voted to approve the agreement, but was curious about its after effects. He wanted to know how it would look when residents consumed alcohol in facilities with signs warning them to refrain from doing so.

Jarrard said officials were "grappling with that."

"For purposes of the license, we indicated in the license that with respect to the time frames covered in the event ... it's not considered county property," Jarrard said.

"How you get past the dichotomy of the no alcohol signs versus the fact that you've got the beer truck distributing six packs ... that may be something where we have to modify our sign verbiage."