Augusta liquor store owners test market for first Sunday of retail alcohol sales

Results hard to gauge on first day, workers say
Philip Rhodes (right) buys liquor from Travis Maurer at Summerville Ace liquor store Sunday afternoon.

Since opening 77 years ago, two years after the end of Prohibition, Bill’s Place opened its doors for the first time on a Sunday this weekend, and the second-generation liquor store owner is still not convinced it will be worth it.


“It isn’t anything to write home about,” said Bill Prince, who took over the business, at Fifth and Broad streets in downtown Augusta, about 50 years ago. “We will stay open for a few weeks to see how it goes.”

Augusta voters approved Sunday package alcohol sales on Super Tuesday, March 6. The Augusta Commission granted final approval Wednesday to an ordinance allowing businesses with licenses to sell package alcohol to do so on Sundays at no additional cost.

Augusta-Richmond County is the largest municipality in the metro area to allow the sale of package alcohol on Sundays. Grovetown allowed Sunday retail alcohol sales beginning in December. The city of Aiken holds a special South Carolina permit allowing the retail sale of beer and wine on Sundays.

Columbia County and the city of Harlem will put the Sunday sales referendum on the July 31 primary ballot.

Last year, Georgia passed a law allowing municipalities to leave the decision to approve Sunday package alcohol sales up to voters.

Prince said he is already open more than 90 hours each week and does not see the harm in being closed one day a week.

“Planning for one day isn’t that
difficult,” he said.

Prince said he sold about the same amount he did on most days, noting there was no notable best-seller of the day.

“People are buying a little bit of everything,” he said.

In Summerville, the Summerville Ace liquor store on Walton Way saw a bump in its regular business.

“It has been busy,” night manager Travis Maurer said. “A lot of people are just doing it because they can today, though.”

Maurer said he thought this Sunday was not a fair assessment because it is so close to the Masters Tournament. He could not tell if the store was busy because of the influx of people to the area or because it was Sunday.

Maurer also said the owner mentioned trying it out for a few Sundays to see if the extra hours are worth the staffing costs.

One customer, Philip Rhodes, said he thought being open Sunday would be a good thing to draw in business from surrounding areas. He said buyers from North Augusta, Columbia County and others would most likely come to Augusta to buy on Sundays.

“I think it will increase business,” he said. “I think they will come to Augusta to spend their money.”

Rhodes said he came in Sunday just because he knew he could.

Both Summerville Ace and Bill’s Place will start taking stock of the real business of Sunday sales April 15, as they both said they will close for Easter Sunday.

“I can’t hide eggs and sell liquor at the same time,” Prince said.