In a surprise vote Tuesday night, the Cumming City Council voted 4-1 to deny a special alcohol sales permit for the upcoming National Barbecue Cup: Que’n in Cumming event.
The third annual gathering, scheduled to begin in nine days, was in line to be the first event at the Cumming Fairgrounds where beer sales would be allowed.
Last month, council amended the city’s alcohol ordinance to allow events at the fairgrounds to obtain special beer and wine permits.
But after some discussion Tuesday night during a called meeting, council members voted to deny the permit, which had been applied for by Amanda Bowman, wife of Randall Bowman, the barbecue event’s founder and lead organizer.
Scott Burgess, a city employee and former Cumming police chief, presented Bowman’s application and recommended approval. He said all the legalities involved in the permit process had been met and all fees for it paid.
However, when Mayor H. Ford Gravitt called for a motion to approve the permit for the Nov. 15 and 16 event, none of the five councilmen spoke.
The city’s attorney, Dana Miles, said he believed that if a motion to deny the permit was not made, it would have to be approved.
“I believe if the application is properly filled out and all the background checks have been made, unless there is a motion to deny it, it would have to stand approved if the city council doesn’t take action,” Miles said.
Councilman Rupert Sexton then made a motion to deny the permit, which drew the support of all of his colleagues except Quincy Holton.
Prior to the vote, Councilman Ralph Perry had expressed reluctance to issue the permit since he said the fairgrounds was built as a family-friendly facility.
“[As it is now], you’re not worried about seeing people walking around drinking or whatever,” he said. “And I’m just afraid that if this is allowed, it’s going to blossom out into our fair, so I’m opposed. It’s just the way I feel.”
Pam Bowman, Randall Bowman’s mother, attended the meeting to speak on behalf of her son and daughter-in-law, who were unable to attend due to an out-of-state business commitment.
Before the vote, she assured council that her family was taking strong precautions to make sure the addition of beer sales would not impede the family-friendly nature of the event, which has drawn more than 12,000 people each of the last two years.
“We’re being very careful, we’re doing everything legally and we don’t want any kind of problem,” she said. “We don’t want anything to be messed up or any kind of tarnish put on anything because this event is important to us and it means a lot to us.”
It was unclear what, if any, steps could be taken to change the council’s decision.
Miles told Sexton when he made the motion that legally he should present some sort of basis for his denial of the permit.
“Of course, I would have to advise you Councilman Sexton that … you would have to state a basis for the denial,” Miles said. “The problem is there’s nothing in the background check or the information provided by staff that would prohibit the application from being approved.”
Sexton, who abstained from the September vote to allow alcohol sales at the fairgrounds in the city’s ordinance, replied that he, like Perry, doesn’t feel the venue is an appropriate venue for alcohol.
“It’s not the proper place for it,” he said as the reason for the motion. “It was not built for that cause.”