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By JIM THOMPSON
Just six weeks after three Athens-Clarke County commissioners told their colleagues and Mayor Nancy Denson they’d like to draft a resolution targeting alleged racial and other discrimination in admission practices at some downtown Athens bars, that document is up for a vote at Tuesday night’s commission meeting, set for 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The heart of the resolution calls for the mayor and commission to “direct the Attorney and the Manager of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County to study and make recommendations to the Mayor and Commission for actions that may be taken … including but not limited to the ongoing consideration of possible revision to the county alcohol licensing ordinance to make a violation of local, state or federal anti-discrimination or civil rights ordinances or laws a basis for the denial, suspension or revocation of an alcoholic beverages license.”
In a brief interview recently, county attorney Bill Berryman said he thinks it is possible to revise the alcohol ordinance to meet the goals outlined in the resolution.
The action by commissioners Mike Hamby, Kelly Girtz and Andy Herod, who enjoy wide support among their colleagues, comes on the heels of a couple developments late last year on the downtown bar scene. In October, a bartender “cheat sheet” including instructions for making a racially insensitive drink — a “N*****ita” containing tequila and watermelon juice — was discovered in General Beauregard’s, an East Clayton Street bar. Shortly after that, the results of an anonymous online survey conducted through the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association, comprising anecdotal evidence of discriminatory admissions practices at downtown bars, were shared with Commissioner Allison Wright, whose district comprises most of the UGA campus.
The dozens of incidents detailed in the survey, some dating back two years, described some bars’ use of “dress code” and “private event” exclusions to keep ethnic minorities and homosexuals out of their establishments.
For example, one survey respondent claimed a “bouncer kept out a group of African American women from a bar with the excuse that they were wearing crop tops — my friend and I (both of whom are white) were just let into the bar and we too were wearing crop tops,” while another respondent claimed to have been “denied access because of my dress, and the bouncer said, ‘We don’t let fags in here.’”
Still another respondent wrote a white male bouncer at one downtown bar “saw us, a group of well dressed black girls, coming and started to look weird. He proceeded to check our IDs and then on the last person, he claimed to have a ‘private party’ happening.”
In a development related to the surveys, student representatives of the SGA have met with county officials, including the mayor and the police chief, to discuss their concerns about the downtown Athens bar scene.
In leading up to the call for the county attorney and manager to come up with regulations, including revision of the local alcohol licensing ordinance, to address the alleged discriminatory admissions practices of some downtown bars, the resolution up for consideration at Tuesday night’s meeting notes “our community benefits from a pluralistic environment” and “discrimination against individuals upon the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, or pregnancy does not reflect the community values that should be upheld in Athens-Clarke County.”
The resolution goes on to note that holding a county license to serve alcoholic beverages is “a privilege and not a right,” and prohibiting discrimination in local establishments that have alcohol licenses “is for the benefit of the public health, safety and welfare.”
Also, the resolution notes the mayor and commission “condemns unlawful discrimination in any form” and calls on all businesses in the county “to act in a non-discriminatory fashion” in accordance with “applicable federal law.” This section of the resolution goes on to reference a section of the county’s code of ordinances prohibiting discrimination against county employees “in promotion, discipline, pay, or any other conditions of employment based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, or pregnancy.”
Hamby said Monday he is confident the resolution will be approved by the commission at Tuesay night’s meeting.SHARE THIS STORY