Originally created 02/04/05

Restrictions on alcohol sales benefit restaurants



Bars rule the roost when it comes to getting a stiff drink, most of the time.

But no matter how popular an establishment might be Monday through Saturday, Georgia law says bars must close on the Sabbath.

But the law also says restaurants that generate at least 50 percent of their sales from food can serve alcohol on Sunday nights.

That exception has turned a day that in times of yore was hardly an opportunity for revelry into a business bonus for many eateries.

Sometimes more alcohol is served on Sunday nights at T.G.I. Friday's on Washington Road than on Friday or Saturday nights, General Manager Scott Stencel said.

On Sunday nights, T.G.I. Friday's features food and drink specials and live music, while catering particularly to those who work at bars and restaurants.

"They often have Mondays off, this gives them something different to do," Mr. Stencel said. "Sunday is the perfect night to go out."

Friday's started promoting Sunday nights about eight years ago, but some restaurants have done it for much longer.

Cafe du Teau, a restaurant on Central Avenue, started marketing Sunday nights around 1979, when Richmond County began allowing Sunday sales at restaurants, owner Don du Teau said.

The upscale eatery turns into a more festive establishment on Sundays by featuring "anything goes" live music sets where local musicians can perform with the house band.

The night is often as busy as Friday and Saturday nights, Mr. Du Teau said.

Regular Sunday night Cafe du Teau patron Lee Kitchen has Mondays off, and so Sunday night is his night to go out.

"There's really nothing else to do," Mr. Kitchen said.

The growing popularity of Sunday nights got the wheels turning for Dan Perry, who owns D. Timm's Jazz Cafe, a restaurant in downtown Augusta.

"I'm going to line up acts for Sunday nights because there's nothing really downtown that has live music then; I'm going to try and grab some of that market," said Mr. Perry, who plans to start the Sunday music nights in March.

Restaurants that cater to NFL fans especially benefit from Sunday sales.

"It's pivotal, you've got to have it," said Jan Scholer, who owns Wild Wing Cafe with his wife, Tricie.

But even in the off season there's a steady stream of patrons coming in for a few drinks, he said.

"On Sundays we have a pretty good church crowd that comes in after church, and bikers Sunday afternoons, and mostly a bar crowd after 9," Mr. Scholer said.

Georgia counties individually pass referendums on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants.

The referendums can also address details such as hours. Richmond County law allows restaurants to serve up to 2 a.m. Monday morning; Columbia County requires sales to cease at midnight.

Columbia County started allowing Sunday liquor sales at restaurants in 1996.

Both bars and restaurants in Aiken County are allowed to serve alcohol on Sundays.

Columbia County's new ordinance banning smoking in public establishments has put a damper on Sunday night sales for some businesses.

"The crowd at the bar is kind of dead now," said Omaira Ramos, manager of the Applebee's on Belair Road.

But Charles Dudley, owner of Dudley's Dawg House Sports Bar and Grill in Martinez, said he hasn't seen such ill effects of the smoking ban on Sunday. However, he thinks Columbia County's early last-call rule has more of an effect.

"It forces us to close, but it's working out kind of well, they come in and start the night then leave to go somewhere else," he said.

Reach Adrian Burns at (706) 823-3352 or adrian.burns@augustachronicle.com