In an attempt to offset losses due to COVID-19, the city of Brookhaven is going to pay businesses’ fees for alcohol pouring licenses this year.

On Nov. 11, the City Council approved spending $300,000 from its $9.5 million reserve fund to help the 60 to 70 businesses in town who serve alcohol, said Alan Goodman, president of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce. The group, and the city’s bar and restaurant association, the Epicurean Society, proposed the idea to the city.

“Roughly 20% of the businesses have closed forever,” Goodman said. The Chamber wants to keep the rest in business, he said.

“We’re a convention town,” he said. Without restaurants and bars, the city loses its appeal.

At the end of the month, businesses will have to pay an annual fee of roughly $5,000 to renew their alcohol permit.

“They were getting kicked when they were down,” said District 2 Councilmember John Park. “They are hardly doing any alcohol sales right now.”

Rudy Hypolite, co-owner of the Righteous Room bar and grill on Johnson Ferry Road, said he is only doing about 50% of the business he usually does. He knew he had to pay the license at the end of the month and was thrilled the city would be pitching in.

“I hope what you are saying is true,” he said.

Once the pouring fee is paid, the bars and restaurants will be reimbursed, Goodman said. License fees vary based on whether the businesses serve liquor or have a patio or dance floor, said Assistant City Manager Steve Chapman.

He indicated that Mayor John Ernst and council members wanted to help the businesses because they weren’t helped much by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. The city got $6.3 million in October, but had a deadline of Dec. 10 to spend it under an agreement with the county, Chapman said. From an audit standpoint, he said, it was too little time to help the businesses. Thus the grant from the reserve fund, he said.

The city put the CARES money to use elsewhere, Chapman said. Among many uses, the city helped pay medical expenses associated with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, facility sanitization, infrastructure updates and personal protective equipment. About $1.85 million went toward salary and benefits for the city police department.

The council signed off on six contracts: one with the YMCA for $85,000; Children’s Healthcare for $998,000; rental payment assistance for residents through St. Vincent DePaul for $725,000; the Latin American Association for $25,000; the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce for $100,000; and Georgia Power for $1.5 million. Partnerships with the YMCA and the LAA aimed to provide food for residents in need.“We’ve been using it for all kinds of things,” Chapman said.

Holly R. Price is a freelance writer based in metro Atlanta.