‘Brunch’ bills to allow early Sunday alcohol sales up for vote

Locust Grove Mayor Robert Price is hoping an extra 90 minutes of imbibing on Sundays will help attract sit-down restaurants to his city.

On Tuesday, voters in Henry County's four cities, along with Morrow voters in Clayton County, will decide whether to join a growing number of metro Atlanta towns to pass "brunch" bills that allow restaurants to serve alcohol as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays.

Currently, Sunday alcohol sales start at 12:30 p.m. in cities that haven’t passed the legislation.

“I’m for it to get us an Applebee’s or some kind of nice restaurant out here,” said Price, who added that his Henry County city is dominated by fast-food restaurants. “If we want a sit down restaurant, we have to go up to McDonough.”

As voters in cities around the southside have approved the legislation — from Conyers to Peachtree City to College Park — communities that have not are playing catch up, Stockbridge City Councilman Elton Alexander said.

“We’re trying to get on board and make sure we are not at a competitive disadvantage,” he said, adding that the city also passed open-container legislation to try to spur downtown restaurant business.

“We want to make sure we are offering our constituents what they want,” he said. “A lot of our residents leave the community now to enjoy a beverage during brunch on Sunday.”

The Georgia Legislature gave municipalities the go-ahead to hold referendums on the "brunch" bill in early 2018, kicking off a wave of ballot measures last year. Close to 100 jurisdictions across the state have approved the bills, according to the Georgia Restaurant Association. More than 20 cities and counties across Georgia are voting on the measure Nov. 5.

“It’s been very much an affirmation of what people want,” said Karen Bremer, CEO of the restaurant association. “All the votes are passing with a two-thirds majority.”

It hasn’t always been so popular.

Two years ago, some Locust Grove council members were not as supportive of the measure, saying in published reports that the change would not have that much impact on economic development.

Price said he has also heard from some residents who worry that it will encourage public drunkenness on Sundays. He said the city has a very good police force to handle anyone who gets out of line.

“Most of people who are going to restaurants on Sundays, don’t go in there to get drunk,” he said. “They just like a Mimosa or Bloody Mary to go with their brunch. As we grow the town, people’s attitudes have changed.”