Mayor Steve Tumlin flexed his veto muscle Wednesday night to tell Marietta Square drinkers to keep it inside.
With the veto, Tumlin effectively killed a plan proposed by Square merchants and restaurateurs to allow adults to walk certain parts of the Square with alcoholic drinks in hand starting with a six-month trial.
“I’m actually a little surprised,” Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson said after the meeting. She had sponsored the plan. “I’m surprised. I really thought we would be able to keep the five (votes) and we would at least be able to do the six-month trial, but you know, the council has spoken. We tried. It’s dead.”
The council originally approved the measure 5-1, with Councilman Grif Chalfant voting no and Councilman Joseph Goldstein abstaining.
To override Tumlin’s veto would have required five votes, but Councilman Johnny Walker switched to no, making it 4-2.
Speaking after the meeting, Walker said he supported the measure, but not enough to override a mayoral veto.
“I was never the biggest cheerleader of it,” he said. “I thought the mayor made some good points, and I thought Cheryl made some good points. Maybe someday we can look at it again.”
The veto caps off a saga which started with Tumlin bringing up the idea of an open container district in July, and Richardson opposing it because of Glover Park’s family atmosphere.
Since then, Tumlin said he only brought the plan up to start a discussion, but later came to oppose it after learning more about it.
In addition to worries about safety and police resources, he said he had concerns the district would include some restaurants but not others.
“We’ve got 35 restaurants, are we going to pick the winners and losers? If you can do it, you ought to be able to do it in a shopping center that has bars,” he said.
Richardson said she switched positions after hearing from the Square business owners, who have said they are losing customers to cities including Acworth, Smyrna and Kennesaw, which have open container districts in their downtown.
Richardson said she was not personally invested in the idea, but believed it would have helped attract customers to Square restaurants and would not have caused an increase in drunk driving or underage drinking.
“The merchants are going to be saddened by this,” she said. “There will be people who come to the Square, even as late as Saturday when I was on the Square to go over to the Strand, who are going to be saddened by our failure to pass this, but the city will go on. It will be OK.”