FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Forsyth County has not required those who serve or sell alcohol to renew their alcohol sales permits. But once that process comes back online, the requirements may change.
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners discussed changing some of its alcohol permit regulations at its Nov. 10 work session.
The discussion centered on allowing those with prior felony convictions to receive a permit. Forsyth County differs from neighboring cities and counties by refusing alcohol sales licenses to anyone with a prior felony conviction.
Most, including Dawson and Gwinnett counties, allow someone convicted of a felony to obtain a sales license five years after their conviction.
“Forsyth County might be considered the outlier,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.
Maj. Tom Patton with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office told commissioners he is not sure when that language was put into the county’s codes, and he doesn’t know the reasoning behind its severity.
“We would agree one-and-done seems a little harsh,” Patton said.
District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper said she wants the county to become “more reasonable” and allow someone to receive an alcohol sales license after a period of time if they had “paid their debt to society.”
Commission Chair Laura Semanson agreed.
Those applying for an alcohol sales permit would still be disqualified under current regulations if they have two or more convictions of DUI in five years, three or more alcohol-related convictions or had their permit denied by another jurisdiction. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor outlined in Forsyth County’s criminal code in the prior year of their permit request would also be disqualified.
“Certainly someone with a track record of being casual with both state and county ordinances with respect to alcohol probably needs to be in a different business,” Patton said.
Another potential change under consideration would be to extend the term of the permit to two years. The county currently charges $45 for a license that is valid for one year. If the term is extended to two years, the price would likely double.
The county has received some feedback from interested parties that want the alcohol sales permit holder to be liable for violations and fines.
The county is also working out a way to potentially stagger the renewal process because it expects a surge in requests once permitting comes back online. The county issued 2,200 alcohol sales permits in 2019, and over half are now expired.
In Forsyth County, all employees serving or selling alcohol must obtain a permit, which includes a background check.