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Mayor Denson Delays Discrimination Vote Again—Maybe Forever

Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

Mayor Nancy Denson listens as Mokah Jasmine Johnson speaks about a local anti-discrimination ordinance at the ACC commission’s Aug. 16 meeting.

Mayor Nancy Denson has taken a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance off the Athens-Clarke County Commission’s agenda for the second straight month, and may never put it back on.

“I’m not sure what to do with it,” Denson said. “I haven’t decided when or if it’s coming back yet.”

The ordinance would require bars to post dress codes and private events at the door, and bars that are found to use dress codes or fake private events to keep out certain customers could have their alcohol licenses suspended or revoked.

Denson gave two reasons for delaying a scheduled vote last month: She missed the Sept. 6 commission meeting while on an economic development trip to Ireland with Gov. Nathan Deal, and she had concerns about some commissioners wanting to include restaurants in the ordinance. While she returned from Ireland last Tuesday, the second issue remains a concern, she said today, so she again nixed a discussion of the ordinance at the commission’s agenda-setting meeting Tuesday night.

Commissioner Kelly Girtz, who’s been pushing for the ordinance since the UGA Student Government Association released a report on widespread racial discrimination at student bars downtown, said he hasn’t spoken with Denson directly, but he was under the impression she would put the ordinance back on the agenda either this month or next.

If and when it’s put back on the agenda, Girtz said he will propose an amendment referring the idea of a citizen review board that would track and mediate discrimination claims to one of the commission’s standing committees. Activists have been pushing for such a “civil rights commission,” but it was not included in the original ordinance. 

Commissioners have a “diversity of opinion” on whether restaurants should be covered by the ordinance, Girtz said; his opinion is that many restaurants function as bars and so should be included, but others think restaurants are “a different animal.”

Including restaurants is still a possibility, but commissioners are more comfortable with the idea of a review board, Girtz said.