Is 50/50 ordinance hurting business in Columbia County?

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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s business versus alcohol sales in Columbia County.

Right now, an ordinance is in place that could keep bars from opening in the county and equal less sales tax revenue for the county.

If you walk into Top Shelf Cigar on Columbia Road in Martinez, you’ll find rows and rows of premium tobacco products.

You’ll also find a room equipped for enjoying your fine cigar.

“We have a big lounge for guys to sit down and enjoy a cigar when it’s too hot or too cold to sit on your porch at home,” said Owner Russell A. Wilder.

Wilder says nothing goes better with a cigar than a good pairing.

“Pairing the right wine, red or white, pairing the right bourbon which is a popular trend right now,” said Wilder.

That’s part of what’s missing in giving his customers the full experience.

It’s because of a 50/50 ordinance in Columbia County.

In order to sell and consume alcohol, 50% of the sales has to come from food.

“I think that’s a good balance. I think we are morally obligated to do what we can against drunk driving,” said Columbia County Chairman Ron Cross.

To Wilder, it’s a 135% problem.

“With the county ordinances, I have to have 85% of my sales from tobacco to allow smoking on premise. In Columbia County, to have on-premise alcohol consumption, you have to have 50% of your sales from food. That equals 135% and I can’t get there,” said Wilder.

Wilder says it’s tough, especially because he wants to expand his business.

“With the way The Plaza is going to be set up, having a cigar/bar type atmosphere, high-end adult beverages, obviously high-end cigars,” said Wilder.

Wilder says he can respect the county’s ordinance, but things are changing as the county grows.

While it’s a no-go for now, Cross things could eventually change.

“A future commission or some other influence could come in that would change that,” said Cross.

Wilder says he has spoken with some commissioners who say they would consider looking at the ordinance but nothing concrete was promised as far as changing it.

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