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City considers Sunday alcohol sales

Officials, businesses offer opinions on local impact

    The whispers of alcohol sales on Sunday have started to get louder.
    The possibility of Sunday alcohol sales was mentioned at the recent Alcohol Control board meeting and the city council meeting. While businesses in general have been amenable to the idea, elected officials support the status quo.
    "It would definitely be a good thing for business," said Loco's owner Jim Lanier. "Every Sunday we have people from out of town, who stay at the hotel next to us, turn around and head to Savannah because they can't buy alcohol."
    Mayor Bill Hatcher, when asked about the possibility, said, "That's not Statesboro. It would not be good for Statesboro. We don't need Sunday sales."
    An e-mail from councilman Will Britt sparked the recent conversation. In his e-mail to the city manager, Britt made the suggestion to open up sales of alcohol on Sunday, perhaps with hours from noon to 9 p.m. He also said chain restaurants feel they are missing out on five percent of possible sales.
    "Missing out on five percent of sales. I can agree with that," said alcohol board member and Applebee’s manager Nate Williams. “It might even be seven or eight percent. I think it would be beneficial, though everyone would have to agree on it.”
    Joe Brannen, city councilman and alcohol control board member, does not think there is a need for Sunday sales.
    "I don't think the community would want it," said Brannen. "I don't think there is a demand for it."
    Owners of local restaurants feel a bit different about the option.
    Gail Ansley, the owner of Statesboro Brews and a member of the Downtown Development Authority, said promoting the downtown is her main goal and thinks Sunday sales would be a benefit to Statesboro and Bulloch County.
    "I felt the pulse of the dining community and know that Sunday restaurant sales of alcohol is wanted by this population," Ansley said. "Adults should be given the option to make their own decision when dining out on Sunday. I definitely think it would pass if it went before the voters. Even package sales would pass. The people of Bulloch County should be able to make that decision."
    Ansley also said that if it does pass, Statesboro Brews still would not open on Sundays, to give her employees time off.
    "That's important to me," said Ansley.
    Others echo this sentiment.
    "I like having Sunday off. It gives us time to regroup," said Dingus Magee's owner Larry Owens. "It's not a moral thing with me — it may be with my wife. I just prefer not to open on Sunday."
    Other interested parties remain relatively undecided.
    "I won’t speak on that right now. At this time I don’t think it would pass," said councilman Gary Lewis. "Well, I’d like to get some more research to see how it would really work, but I can’t say yes right now."
    Paul Ferguson, director of Health Services at GSU, is more concerned about his students.
    "For someone who is in a position to be concerned about the health and safety of our students, our major concern is abuse and establishments that haven't been following the rules," Ferguson said.
    "From our perspective," Ferguson continued, "if they are of age, follow the rules and get a designated driver, I don’t know of any studies that indicate that selling alcohol on Sundays increases the safety risk. The days aren’t much of an issue to us"
    In Rome, Ga., the city approved Sunday alcohol sales about 18 months ago. City Manager John Bennett said there haven't been any problems.
    "We haven’t noticed any difference, no proliferation of nightclubs being open on Sunday," Bennett said. "The restaurants have more business on Sunday night and it's easier for us to attract tournaments and the like, people from out of town."
    Steve Smith is the area director for Applebee's restaurants, which includes Rome, Ga. He said it was the hotel operators that drove the change in Sunday sales.
    "The hoteliers came to the restauranteurs and asked to form an association in order to talk the city into doing Sunday service because we’re losing business," said Smith. "When event planners found out they couldn’t do certain things on Sunday, they would take their business elsewhere."
    He also talked about the economic impact felt in Rome since the ordinance passed.
    "There was a mass exodus on Sunday morning from the hotels," Smith said. "Now, people are staying around, having a brunch somewhere, watching the game, having a couple of beers generally seeing the town."
    "In the first three or fours months, it tripled our business," said Wendy Brophy, Hooter's manager in Rome. "Now, over a year later, we’re still doing over double the business we did before the change. More during a big race."
    "Beer and NASCAR is like ice cream and apple pie," said Bennett.
    Gail Ansley said she couldn't imagine anyone would say it would hurt business in Statesboro, when asked if she knew any business group against the idea.
    "I don't know of a single group," she said. "Anybody that would say that having alcohol on Sunday is bad for business is a nut."

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