Thursday, November 9, 2023–12:30 p.m.
-David Crowder, WRGA News-
Tourism officials are seeking a partnership that would see the Rome Downtown Development Authority become the alcohol license holder for the Forum.
The facility was approved for a new beer, wine, and liquor pouring license in August. The Forum has been a county facility since its construction in the early 1990s, but it will come under the City of Rome’s ownership due to the recent local option sales tax negotiations. There has not been an alcohol license at the Forum since the county’s contract with Safari Hospitality expired in 2020. Doreen Meeks, a Forum contract employee, is currently the license holder. However, the state has some issues with the current arrangement.
“The state wasn’t super-comfortable with the city holding the license,” said Rome City Clerk Joe Smith. “Even though the license is in an individual’s name, it is backed by the city. The state suggested the license be in an authority’s name. So, we had some discussion amongst ourselves, and someone thought it might be a good idea.”
The Forum’s license is an off-site license, as opposed to an on-premises license, which bars and restaurants hold. The Forum contracts with hospitality services that provide the pourers when there is an event where alcohol is sold.
Some alcohol license holders downtown and even some members of the Rome Alcohol Control Commission have questioned the fairness of allowing the Forum to have a license with no requirement to meet the city’s 50-50 food-to-drink ratio. The alcohol ordinance exempts government-run auditoriums with 2,500 or more seats.
Rome tourism director Lisa Smith told the DDA that even though the Forum is not a restaurant, they will track the ratio, and report those numbers.
“We feel that we will very much exceed the 50 percent in food sales,” she said. “We will probably have more food sales than we will alcohol events. We still want to operate, not as a government entity, but as a service—a hospitality entity, a tourism entity, and bring the economics back to downtown. I think you’ve already felt that happening just with the two weekends we have been open. So, we want to be a partner. We want to act like everyone else and be held accountable at the same level.”
Smith also proposed a deal that could benefit downtown.
“Of course, many of you know my background, I was the arts council director when I first came to Rome,” she said. “The public art here is very near and dear to my heart. We would like to give back a percentage of our profit to DDA to manage their public art program. On days that we do well, we would like to be able to look at the end of the year and bonus that. We want to commit at least five percent.”
Although no official vote was taken, DDA members expressed a desire to move forward and get more information about what such a partnership would look like.