Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman on Thursday introduced Senate Bill 17, which would allow restaurants to start alcohol sales at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Sales at privately owned restaurants currently cannot begin until 12:30 p.m. on Sundays. Unterman considers it a fairness issue: Government-owned buildings — such as the Georgia World Congress Center — do not face such restrictions and are free to pour. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

‘Mimosa mandate’ seeks Sunday morning cocktails in Georgia restaurants

A bill that would allow Georgia restaurants to serve morning cocktails on Sundays has been filed in the state Senate, backed by a powerful GOP senator who is calling it her “mimosa mandate.”

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, does not drink, but she said Senate Bill 17 is meant to correct what she considers a fairness issue: While privately owned restaurants in Georgia are banned from serving alcohol before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays, government-owned buildings — such as the Georgia World Congress Center — do not face such restrictions and are free to pour.

Georgia once banned any sort of purchase of alcohol on Sundays, but lawmakers over the past several years have allowed Sunday sales as long as they are made after 12:30 p.m.

Unterman’s bill would allow restaurants to start alcohol sales at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. It’s usually a popular notion with much of the public, but she faces staunch opposition from yet another powerful GOP colleague.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, has blocked similar efforts over the past two years, saying it would upset what he has called a “fragile compromise” between legislative leaders and the faith community over allowing any alcohol sales on Sunday mornings.

Still, the move so early in this year’s legislative session — Unterman filed the bill Thursday, the session’s fourth day — has buoyed the hopes of supporters, which include the Georgia Restaurant Association. The association has estimated that at least 4,000 Georgia restaurants would likely take advantage if the law changed.

State Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, who has sponsored previous versions of the legislation, has estimated that earlier pouring times on Sundays would produce almost $11 million in additional tax revenue for state and local governments.

“I am pleased to join my friends in the Senate in support of Georgia’s restaurant, hotel, and lodging industry as they seek to meet customer demands and level the playing field offering a better brunch in Georgia,” Harrell said.

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