After months of controversy, Savannah City Council as expected approved awarding an alcoholic beverage license to The Stage On Bay, in the wake of a threatened $6 million lawsuit against the city for denying the new performance venue its rights under current zoning laws.
"I want to apologize to all the citizens of West Savannah," said Mayor Eddie DeLoach as the motion was on the table. "Your government has failed you."
His comments echoed a long statement by Alderman Tony Thomas, pointing out that "these are our rules and ordinances" that cleared the way for the liquor license, opposed by many residents of the nearby Hudson Hill neighborhood.
"These rules have been in place since the 1960s, and they have to be changed," said Thomas. "This is all for show."
City Manager Rob Hernandez confirmed for Council that a new regulatory environment regarding beverage licenses is being formulated, in part to avoid controversies like the one involving The Stage On Bay.
The liquor license was granted though City Attorney Brooks Stillwell confirmed that the venue hasn't yet been granted a complete Certificate of Occupancy. Construction was halted on the project when the license was denied a month ago.
In related news, City Council unanimously approved a 90-day moratorium on new alcoholic beverage licenses in a narrowly defined area of the West Bay Street Corridor, where the venue is located.
Second District Alderman Bill Durrence, while voting for the moratorium, said "I can't help but notice the alacrity with which this Council moved on this moratorium," while downtown residents "were begging all the past year for a moratorium on new hotels."