The amendments seek to eliminate three methods of discrimination used in some bars in the downtown area, especially against gay patrons: the use of private events, uneven application of dress codes, and outright denial of entry into an establishment.
Violation of the proposed amendments could result in the suspension or permanent revocation of an establishment’s alcohol license.
Prejudicial business practices in Athens were brought to the attention of the county commissioners largely through a University of Georgia student government survey, through which multiple students related personal stories of being profiled and denied admission to various bars.
In January, the university’s student-run newspaper, the Red and Black, reported on several of such stories, which detailed students being kept from entering bars because of sexual orientation and skin color.
If the ordinances pass, local businesses will be required to post their dress code so that it is “visible and legible within ten feet of any entrance.” Also, the legislation mandates equal application of a dress code to all patrons.
In addition, all special events hosted by a bar must be formalized with a written agreement between the establishment and the sponsor, and, as with the dress code, there must be a posted notice of the private event visible no more than ten feet from any entrance.
The proposal was met with mixed feelings Thursday. Commissioner chair Andy Herod called the group of ordinances “an avenue with real teeth” in dealing with discrimination.
Some, such as local activist Mokah Jasmine Johnson, were less impressed.
“It’s just specifically dealing with bars,” she said. “I don’t think it going to be enough to protect [minorities].”
Some changes were made by the commission to the amendments before they were approved. Members requested that the legislation require posted signs indicating dress code and private events be visible from outside the bar and include contact information for a city attorney in the case a patron wishes to file a complaint.
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