“Paint-and-sip” type businesses, where people bring their own booze to casual art classes, got cheaper and easier to operate in Sandy Springs April 18 as the City Council tweaked its licensing law. But the 4-2 vote came amid debate over whether it left loopholes for criminals or strip clubs to abuse the paint-and-sip trend.
“Brown-bagging,” or bringing beer and wine to such businesses, was already permitted under previous city code. But inconsistent legal interpretations by city staff had paint-and-sip companies paying for full-blown booze licenses as if they were bars, which the City Council never intended. The issue was raised last year when Painting With a Twist paid more than $1,500 to get licensed on Roswell Road.
City Attorney Wendell Willard presented a new ordinance that makes brown-bagging at paint-and-sip places a stand-alone law. Only businesses that provide instruction in art, sewing or cooking would be eligible. That currently means only three businesses in operation in the entire city, according to city finance director Karen Ellis. The new fees: $125 for a license, $40 for a background check, and $275 total for a first-time application filing and advertisement.
City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling had pushed for the changes as a business-friendly reform. While they were approved, the thumbs-up came only after debate about potential unintended consequences. Mayor Rusty Paul suggested the provision could be abused by a business owner who was barred from getting a liquor license, or that paint-and-sip could become a new front in the city’s endless war with adult businesses.
“Let’s just say one of the strip clubs decided their strippers should be put in body paint as a piece of art,” the mayor said.
After a pause, Willard replied with a laugh, “That could be a problem.”
Willard went on to say that an existing paint-and-sip business in town already “has ladies who come there and unclothe, and there’s art being done”—in other words, nude models for life-painting.
The mayor jokingly questioned whether the city attorney knew that from experience. But City Councilmembers Chris Burnett and Tibby DeJulio—the “no” votes—were more serious.
DeJulio said he didn’t want another “11 years in court” with adult businesses, referring to the city’s ongoing legal battles over the location of strip clubs and adult bookstores, which pit crime concerns against constitutional liberties.
“I recommend we bring some clarity to the word ‘art,’” Burnett suggested.
“Christ, guys, I’m trying to put common sense into a normal thing,” said Sterling in frustration. He suggested that the council shouldn’t “overthink ourselves into a knot that can be painted.”
However, Sterling had his own on-the-fly change questioning the law’s wording. Willard had suggested that bring-your-own beer be limited to “two 16-ounce bottles.” Sterling noted that beer comes in many shapes and sizes, such as the popular growlers.
“It’s so limiting,” Sterling said of the two-bottle wording, while Willard asked, “How much do you want to allow people to drink and go drive?”
Ultimately, the council approved a tweak that permits 32 ounces of beer in two “containers” or any “equivalent” container.