On Tuesday it will be the Columbia County commissioners' turn to determine the fate of a new restaurant near Bel Air Elementary School, a proposal the county's school board struck down last year.
A sign at site of the proposed Rhinehart's location in Evans notes application for an alcohol sales license. Commissioners will hear the issue this week.
Photo by Barry Paschal
Amy and Craig Bailey, owners of Rhinehart's Oyster Bar in Augusta, will go before the Board of Commissioners to request a liquor license for a second location near the intersection of Owens and North Belair roads.
The school board halted the restaurant project when it voted not to grant the Baileys a waiver for the required 600-foot distance between the establishment and Bel Air Elementary.
The owners purchased an adjacent piece of land to move the building farther away, resolving the distance rule.
Jeff Browning, director of the county's planning and development division, said the couple has cleared other requirements to receive a liquor license.
"The background checks have been performed and have come back satisfactory on both the stockholders of the company," he said during a commissioners' committee meeting last week about the license application. "There are no outstanding taxes owed to the county."
Mrs. Bailey said she and her husband also have received encouragement to open the restaurant from current customers and county residents.
"We felt an overwhelming response from people saying we really want you there," she told the group of neighbors assembled at the committee meeting. "We've always been good neighbors where we're at now, and we feel like we could be good neighbors to you too."
Neighbors who showed up at the meeting to harshly oppose the license application said they also intend to speak before Tuesday's vote.
"If we do this thing Tuesday night, book the auditorium," said Reamer Allmond, who lives in the nearby Idylwilde subdivision. "Rhinehart's has chosen to open a bar within the school zone of Bel Air Elementary and just down the street, which is the major exit point of Evans High School.
"We don't want this bar in our neighborhood."
Though alcohol sales are a sticking point for some neighbors, others said they plan to argue safety, traffic and zoning definitions to county commissioners.
"My personal perspective is it's more of an issue of responsible planning and zoning from the Columbia County commissioners," said Glenn Palmer, who lives in the Glennwood neighborhood and has assembled booklets outlining arguments against the restaurant to distribute to county commissioners. "I feel that the C1 (neighborhood) zoning that they're putting this place in under does not support what they're doing."
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