Georgia lawmakers on Friday overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing localities to let restaurants sell alcohol earlier on Sundays.
House Bill 535, by Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville passed 121-47 and now goes to the Senate. Before booze could flow at 10: 30 a.m. on Sundays, instead of 12:30 as the law now allows, local officials where Sunday sales are already legal would first have to vote to allow the earlier start.
The bill’s swift passage — it was only introduced on March 3 — is a remarkable change considering it took more than five years for the state to approve the Sunday sale of alcohol in stores. That bill was signed signed into law in 2011.
Harrell said the state’s restaurant trade group estimates it could lead to $100 million in additional sales. Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, wondered how such a figure could be true.
“It’s not just alcohol, but food service in those two additional hours,” Harrell said.
The Georgia Restaurant Association, he said, estimated the bill would generate $450 to $480 in new sales per Sunday for each restaurant that is affected. There are 4,000 restaurants that could qualify, he said. Over 52 Sundays a year, that adds up to nearly $100 million.
Harrell faced little opposition, although Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough, wondered “how much of that revenue was going to end up in the offering plates of our churches around the state.”
Harrell, however, noted his church has mass seven days a week.
“We offer quite frequently,” he said.