Serving alcohol at the public library is not the norm. But it is not out of the realm of possibility that the library could host an event in which the participants wish to serve alcohol. For example, imagine a retirement party for a long-time library employee which occurs after operational hours—is it lawful for the employee’s spouse to bring in a few bottles of champagne for party-goers to share in a toast to the retiree? Or what if a local beer brewing club books the meeting room and asks if the attendees are allowed to sample the club’s latest batch? In Pennsylvania, public libraries have turned to fundraising events that include alcohol to raise money for programming. (1) If the idea of alcohol in your public library has come up, knowing where to find applicable law is necessary.

State Laws

State law governs Georgia’s minimum drinking age, which is 21. (2) This means it is unlawful to purchase alcohol under the age of 21, and it is likewise unlawful to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 21. Furthermore, any person who knowingly serves alcohol to a person under age 21, or to a person who is noticeably intoxicated and also knows that the minor or intoxicated person will soon be driving a motor vehicle may be liable for injury or damage resulting from the intoxication. (3)

The Georgia Department of Revenue requires special event permits when the provision of alcohol is tied to any monetary exchange or transfer of funds and the location where the event will be held does not hold a state retail alcohol license. (4) This would include the outright selling of alcoholic beverages at an event as well as other methods for charging, such as entry fees or donations. On the other hand, if a group or individual has a party where alcohol is provided to guests with no expectation of payment, then a state Special Event Permit would not be required. In this instance, the alcohol must be obtained by the party host from a Georgia licensed retailer of alcoholic beverages.

Local Ordinances

State laws are the not only consideration with regard to obtaining licensing for serving alcohol. Local governments have their own rules about events that involve alcohol. For example, the City of Newnan requires the person organizing a private function where alcohol will be served to obtain a permit from the City. (5) Also, the special event may take place only on the premises of a place that has been approved as a “qualifying location.” (6) In the City of Avondale Estates, a nonprofit civic organization can obtain a temporary permit to sell alcoholic beverages on a single day. (7) In Athens-Clarke County, even a home brew special event requires a permit. (8)

Ordinances are written laws adopted by the municipal governing authority that serve as permanent, enforceable laws. However, state and federal laws supersede any conflicting city or county ordinances.

Many local government ordinances are available online through a publishing company called Municode. (9) It is free to use and has word search capabilities. If a jurisdiction is not included in Municode, then the municipality’s attorney is an excellent resource. Also, local law libraries, usually on the county level, often maintain codes of ordinances for the localities it serves.

Conclusion

There may arise situations in which it would be both reasonable and beneficial to allow alcohol to be served in public libraries such as fundraising events or programs of a cultural or educational nature. However, in Georgia, the sale and provision of alcohol are heavily regulated at the both the state and local levels. Therefore, gaining a full understanding of what is required in a particular jurisdiction and how the laws apply to specific circumstances is crucial for library administrators. The resources above offer a starting point for research; before embarking on library/libation mixers, consultation with local officials is suggested.


Footnotes

1. Brandolph, Adam, “Events with alcohol help libraries raise funds for extras,” Trib Live, Sept. 17, 2014 accessed September 17, 2018, https://triblive.com/neighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoodsmore/6693882-74/library-wine-findlay.
2. O.C.G.A. §§ 3-3-23, 3-3-23.1.
3. O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40.
4. State of Georgia, Dept. of Revenue, “Press Release: Alcohol Licensing for Events” Nov. 23, 2015 accessed September 17, 2018, https://dor.georgia.gov/press-releases/2015-11-23/alcohol-licensing-events-0.
5. City of Newnan Code of Ordinances Sec. 3-21
6. City of Newnan Code of Ordinances Sec. 3-20
7. City of Avondale Estates Code of Ordinances Sec. 3-120.
8. Athens-Clarke County Code of Ordinances Sec. 6-3-7.
9. Municode.com, accessed September 17, 2018.


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