Permit or quit

By SHAWANDA HOLSEY

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.  – The hospitality industry is a lucrative business and has a tremendous impact economically in the city of Sandy Springs. People wanting to gain employment in any of the local clubs, bars, lounges or restaurants have to obtain a pouring permit.

Immediately after employment has been confirmed and before an employee can start working, he or she must purchase a pouring permit from the city of Sandy Springs police department for a fee of $50.

“Pouring permits allow persons to sell alcoholic beverages to individual retail customers at a particular premises,” said Shae Humphrey, the processing clerk at the permit office. “The sale must occur at the licensed premises, with the buyer or seller both physically present at the time of the sell.”

Applicants seeking to obtain a pouring permit must qualify in order to do so. Permits will not be issued if the applicant has been convicted or plead guilty or nolo to any felony and/or misdemeanors, involving sex-related crimes. This includes any criminal offense relating to alcoholic beverages, controlled substances, taxes or gambling.

“Tensions can run high when an individual receives the news that they got a job, but realizes because of a past offense within the last five years they don’t qualify to obtain the permit,” Humphrey said. “If a person has not been released from any parole or probation prior to the application process, they won’t qualify, and this is often the case when a person is denied.”

Why are pouring permits important?

Restaurants are held accountable for anyone purchasing alcohol.

Pouring permits were implemented in order to protect businesses commercial liquor licenses. These permits certify that employers are hiring employees that are qualified to serve, sell, mix and take orders for alcoholic beverages.

“All restaurants, lounges, bars and clubs are required have a state-approved retail liquor license posted in the establishment,” said Joel Dill, the processing manager at the permit office. “Otherwise the state can impose fines or shut down the business until the proper certifications are obtained.”

Sandy springs pouring permitTaco Mac Prado city issued Commercial Liquor and Beer License.

What do managers think?

J.R. Mitchum, general manager of Taco Mac Prado in Sandy Springs, has been in the hospitality industry for 15 years.

“Personally I’m glad the state has found a way to protect staff members and employers by enforcing these permits,” said Mitchum. “It’s tough maintaining permits for 50 plus employees, because of high turnover rates. But it’s worth it and helps us to know if our staff members are state qualified and certified to serve alcohol.”

Once an applicant has been approved for a pouring permit, a receipt is given to them to present to the employer, and the pouring license is mailed to the restaurant within two and four weeks.

“I have had interviews with outstanding candidates and hired them on the spot. Once they apply for the pouring permit, many have returned to tell me they won’t be able to work the position I hired them for,” said Roselyn Taylor, a general manager at Marlow’s Tavern.  “The permit process has helped to protect my job as well as the business. With so many state regulations, this process helps us to know that the people we have working for us qualify to pour and serve the customers that visit our establishment.”

In order to obtain a liquor permit, a person must submit to a nationwide background check, fingerprinting and photography for identification purposes.

Employees sound off

Ambra Cooper has been a waitress at Taco Mac for 10 years. Taco Mac has a strict ID policy and every guest must present a valid form of identification before they can be served any alcohol.

“There is a lot of pressure when it comes to maintaining your liquor permit,” Cooper said. “We are required to ID every customer, every time and there is a lot to check for in a short amount of time.”

“If we are caught not checking IDs or if we miss any of the verification steps we can lose our job, we have to go to court, pay a fine and lose the pouring permit altogether,” said Chayla Miley, a bartender at Taco Mac.

courtney sparks
Bartender Courtney Sparks mixes a drink during Taco Mac’s “Pint Night.”

When verifying an ID employees have to check for the state seals and holograms, birth and expiration dates, picture, and look for any modifications or alterations.

“I feel the punishment is harsh when a person is caught not checking an ID or not checking it properly,” said Chris King, a server at 5 Seasons Brewing Co. “This industry is stressful and we’re pressured to get drinks and food out fast. I have seen hard workers lose their jobs all because they had an off night and were caught by a secret shopper not following procedures.”

Who enforces permit violations?

Managers nor employees know when an audit will be conducted.

“The city sets up undercover sting operations to test restaurant staff members on the ID verification process,” said Mitchum. “They can occur at any time, during any shift and immediate termination is enforced when a person is caught not following guidelines.”

Bars such as 5 Seasons, Taco Mac and Marlow’s Tavern have in-house secret shoppers that aid them in training procedures to prepare staff members for undercover stings.

“Promising profits are made in the alcohol retail industry and our mission is to ensure that people who reside and come to visit this community are safe,” Humphrey, the processing clerk, said. “By conducting strict reoccurring stings and imposing harsh consequences we hope that businesses and staff members take this process serious because it saves lives.”

Submit to the permit

There are over 77 companies listed under “bars and restaurants” in Sandy Springs.

Pouring permits are here to stay and managers and staff members in the hospitality industry have to maintain updated liquor permits.

“I make good money as a server and if I have to slow down and double check the person’s ID if they’re drinking then so be it,” said Cooper. “It’s a part of the job and although it gets tough during those busy pops, I make sure I check properly. After all, I could be saving a life.”

Although the process is tough and there is no room for error, enforcing regulations on the sale of alcoholic beverages must be done.

“Fines, fees and termination are three words that are sure to get the attention of anyone working to make a living in this industry,” said Miley. “I feel the punishment process can be revised for first time offenders but overall, I understand and respect that consequences have to be strictly enforced.”

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