House passes bill that could bring package stores closer to campus

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House passes bill that could bring package stores closer to campus

House lawmakers approved a bill Thursday that would allow local governments to decide just how far college students must walk to buy alcohol to-go.

House Bill 517, introduced by Rep. Chuck Williams, R-Watkinsville, would allow city and county governments to determine the distance between college campuses and retailers of beer and wine. Current law allows local governments to specify the distance establishments such as bars and restaurants must be from a campus, but it does not allow the same for package retailers.

Williams said he introduced the bill to accommodate a grocery chain considering a store in the Athens area.

The University System of Georgia took a neutral stance on the bill, Williams said. But Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, was more spirited in his interest.

“Is there any potential for this having a detrimental effect on the game day experience in certain college towns in autumn?” he asked Williams, who assured him “game day Saturdays are safe.”

HB 517 passed 156-6. It now heads to the Senate.

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