Originally created 12/29/06

Many bars must be closed Sunday



If you want to ring in the New Year at your favorite watering hole, you better check ahead.

That's because blue laws in both Georgia and South Carolina will keep many bars from operating on Sunday.

In Augusta, only businesses that derive 50 percent of gross sales through food, under state law, can be open that day. In South Carolina, bars without a seven-day beer and wine license won't be able to operate.

So as champagne glasses clink and voices churn out the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne, Augusta's Coyotes Nightclub - which doesn't qualify under the "50-50" rule - will remain dark.

Charles Sconyers, owner of the Peach Orchard Road club, said sales at Coyotes typically increase by 30 percent to 50 percent during New Year's celebrations.

Mr. Sconyers said he had worked since August with other bar owners to find an exception.

Ron Huckaby, assistant special agent in charge for the Augusta division of the state's alcohol and tobacco division, said Georgia law requires a voter referendum for an exception in an area of Augusta's size. That didn't happen this year.

Mr. Sconyers said Thursday he was trying to arrange a tent party at the nearby Road Runner Cafe, which can sell alcohol on Sunday under the law.

But the blue laws might not be bad for everyone.

"We're actually reserving tables," said Josh Simonton, general manager of Somewhere in Augusta on Washington Road, which meets the 50-50 rule. "We know that we are going to be extra busy since we're one of the few places open."

He said he is expecting 200 people, with extra seating outside, and close to 50 percent more revenue than on a typical Sunday.

Bryan Mitchell, the manager of the Polo Tavern at Hotel Aiken, said he expects sales to be 20 percent to 30 percent higher than on an average Friday night.

The Richmond County License and Inspection Department sent out notices Thursday warning businesses that sheriff's deputies and department officials will be out to enforce the rules.

Reach Laura Youngs at (706) 823-3227 or laura.youngs@augustachronicle.com.