‘Brunch bill’ passes state House

Georgia lawmakers on Friday overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing restaurants to sell alcohol earlier on Sundays, if sales are already legal that day.

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.

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.