Clarkston City Council approves alcohol delivery, appoints judge to police task force

Photo caption: The Clarkston City Council met on Tuesday, May 4, via Zoom to continue discussions on alcohol delivery from retail delivery shops and to appoint members to the Clarkston Police Community Task Force. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Clarkston, Ga. — The Clarkston City Council narrowly approved an ordinance amendment to allow retail delivery shops to sell and deliver packages of beer, wine and malt beverages. Mayor Beverly Burks broke the tie in the 4-3 vote, which is her first vote since taking office.

The change adds a fourth category for new licenses permitted for certain designated businesses. The following language will be added to the ordinance, according to the agenda packet, “Retail Delivery Shop means a retail establishment, which is engaged in the retail sale of food products, household goods and other sundry items for delivery only, that has a total interior floor area of not more than 10,000 square feet.”

The amendment was approved with two additional terms that there will be a trial period from August 2021 to December 2022 and that a retail delivery shop cannot host in-person events.

The trial period would allow the city to see if there are any negative effects, like any potential issue with underage purchases or an unforeseen economic impact on local businesses, Councilmember Jamie Carroll said.

Gopuff requested this change so they can expand and venture into delivery beer, wine and malt beverages. The business delivers food and drinks, cleaning supplies, home needs, over-the-counter medication, and is a delivery only business.

Concerns were previously raised by some council members as the city currently restricts the type of stores that are allowed to sell alcohol in the city, effectively placing a moratorium on liquor stores, Vice Mayor Awet Eyasu said.

City Manager Robin Gomez said the city does not have a moratorium in place as new businesses can obtain a license if they are a growler shop, specialty wine shop or a grocery store.

The decision to limit the types of businesses that were selling alcohol in the city was first made in July 2016. Eyasu said at previous work sessions that there are multiple stores that sell alcohol in Clarkston and the City Council felt that need has been met.

Other concerns raised at the May 4 meeting were how the city or businesses, like Gopuff, will monitor who alcohol is being delivered to.

Gopuff would only be able to deliver alcohol to residents in Clarkston but some addresses have a Clarkston address but are in unincorporated DeKalb County, Planning and Development Director Shawanna Qawiy said. While other addresses have a Scottdale address but are in the city limits of Clarkston, Gomez said.

Neighboring cities, such as Avondale Estates, also had a concern about monitoring especially if there are alcohol apps that can deliver alcohol within one hour of ordering, Qawiy said.

Cameron Kilberg, a Gopuff representative, said that Gopuff uses addresses and geofencing to monitor the delivery area.

“We can basically draw lines through our technology,” Kilberg said. “It puts in those addresses in that area and it limits the product you can see or not see in the app so that would limit what you could purchase.”

Councilmember Laura Hopkins said that it’s been her general observation that people tend to run out of alcohol when they’re drinking it and then they go get some more.

“I think it would reduce the number of people who have had alcohol being behind the wheel of a car,” Hopkins said. “I think it’s a public safety issue and it meets the ends of this original restriction on liquor licenses in that it does not allow that type of very cluttered, cheap stores on all of our retail [space].”

Clarkston Police Chief Criss Hudson agreed with Hopkins and said it’s a great idea as the delivery service would keep people at home.

— In other business, the City Council appointed nine members to the Clarkston Police Community Task Force with a 3-1-1 vote. Eyasu abstained from the vote and Hopkins cast a no vote. Councilmember Ahmed Hassan seemingly did not cast a vote.

The members are all experts in various areas, including mental health, domestic violence and a multicultural organization.

Judge David Will, who is contracted as the city’s municipal court judge, was appointed to the task force, although some concerns were raised about his involvement and any potential conflict of interest.

City Attorney Stephen Quinn said that he can see why someone may be uncomfortable with Will’s appointment but doesn’t foresee any issues.

“I think that he certainly should not and I’m sure would not participate in evaluating or discussing a particular defense or defendant but my understanding is that that’s not really what the group would do, that it would make policy recommendations,” Quinn said. “I think that Judge Will probably has a lot of insight that he could add.”

Hopkins shared similar concerns as Eyasu. Her concern was that Will’s presence on the task force may cause other members to not be as open and honest as they want to if they think they may have a case going before Will.

“I just think he’s a very heavy character to have on a committee where we’re looking for maximum engagement by the other members,” Hopkins said.

“I do think it creates an obvious conflict if we’re looking at justice in Clarkston and then we have the highest ranking person in justice in Clarkston to evaluate it,” Hopkins added.

Hopkins doesn’t want the community or Will to think the city doesn’t appreciate his work or that he’s not fair, but said there have been concerns regarding Clarkston’s judicial system.

She pointed to the letter the Southern Center of Human Rights reported on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as part of her concerns. The letter said that Clarkston has had civil rights violations in its judicial system by imposing illegal jail sentences and failing to provide enough courtroom interpreters, according to the AJC.

Hopkins also acknowledged that the letter cites cases that preceded Will’s tenure as the municipal court judge.

The police task force will look at the police policies, procedures and training and make recommendations to the public safety and legal committee before the City Council.

“For the purposes of this exercise, in terms of the committee, they cannot talk about specific cases or incidents,” Burks said. “It is strictly policy and training.”

Councilmember Mark Perkins said it would be helpful to have Will’s perspective as the group will not be examining or reviewing specific incidents but will be evaluating the relationship between the police department and the community.

“I do believe that he would be able to help with this group if they have any kind of questions and it’s obvious that they’re not going to be doing any type of voting,” Hudson added. “They’re only looking at our policies and how we can do better out in the community with training. All of this is going to be forwarded to the public safety committee anyway.”

The nine members appointed to the police task force are:

– Joseph Arnold, executive director of Positive Growth Inc

– Teresa Hardy, president of the DeKalb County NAACP

– Judge David Will, Clarkston Municipal Court Judge

– Luay Sami, executive director of the Clarkston Community Center

– Jewell Gooding, executive director of Silence of the Shame

– Pastor Karl Moore, Clarkston First Baptist Church

– April Ross, executive director of GA Commission on Family Violence

– Rafiq Ahmad, Georgia chapter president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

– Kim Ault, a Clarkston resident

The City Council will meet again on Tuesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

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