VALDOSTA -- City Council will consider amendments to its alcohol ordinance tonight designed to give hotels, caterers and private social clubs more leeway in providing alcoholic beverages to patrons.

Given the city's recent hotel boom -- and the prospect that metropolitan status could bring more national franchises to the area -- City Manager Larry Hanson recommended alterations to some "outdated policies."

Current regulations prohibit liquor by the drink from being served in a facility without a restaurant capable of seating 60 customers. Many modern hotel chains, such as the new Courtyard by Marriott or Sleep Inn, have smaller seating areas, but often serve complimentary alcoholic beverages to patrons or host catered events where alcohol is served. Those practices would not be allowed in the city without amending the ordinance, and the policy could act as a brake on future development.

Hanson's recommendation carves out an exemption for hotels and private social clubs to allow limited alcohol service, without allowing a proliferation of small, public liquor by the drink establishments.

Hotels with 50 or more rooms, smaller hotels who sell only to guests for consumption on the property and private social clubs who serve only members and guests and only on the property will all be allowed alcohol licenses under the ordinance.

Another proposed change to the city's alcohol ordinances on tonight's agenda would erase a six-month residency requirement in order to obtain a retail liquor or liquor by the drink license in the city.

The move will make it easier for new restaurants -- often owned by national corporations rather than individuals -- to obtain local liquor licenses.

Hanson noted in a memorandum to Council that there was not a similar requirement to obtain a beer and wine license in the city, and that the amendment promoted consistency in the ordinance, while still protecting public interest.

"I am sure that many years ago such a requirement made good sense," he wrote. "However, in today's world with technology available and requirements in place for background checks and references as part of our ordinance such a requirement is not necessary. ... That is why we rely on criminal background checks, business references and so forth."

Council will also consider a recommendation that an advisory committee be formed to study the feasibility of a city-owned telecommunications system that could include cable TV, residential and commercial high-speed Internet access and local telephone service.

The idea was first broached at the city's February planning retreat as a way to boost the area's technological infrastructure while cutting the cost of those services.

A similar plan carried out in Tifton improved consumer choice while also sparking a cable rate war between the Tifton and the local cable provider.

City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Mayor-Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall.

To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.

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