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Sunday brunch drink time on city ballot
Would let restaurants pour 90 minutes earlier
Brunch illustration (Soyumi) (1).jpg
Soyumi Asian Kitchen serves this mimosa or other drinks with brunch, so far only on Saturdays.

Statesboro is holding a separate special election coinciding with the Nov. 6 statewide and county election. But there are no candidates in the city election, only a question about how early restaurants in the city limits can serve alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

Early voting in the referendum will be available Oct. 15-Nov. 2, just as with the state and county election, and in the same places but on a separate ballot. But some Statesboro residents who wait until the traditional Election Day, Nov. 6, will then need to vote in two separate places.

The referendum is Statesboro City Council’s initiative under the so-called Brunch Bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly in March and signed May 8 by Gov. Nathan Deal. Cities and counties that get local voter approval can allow restaurants that serve alcohol on Sundays to do so an hour and a half earlier, beginning at 11 a.m. instead of 12:30 p.m.

“It’s the restaurant owners that came to us and asked for this amendment, and it does impact tourism to a certain extent,” Councilman Phil Boyum said in an interview this week. “There are some folks that have wanted to come to town that ended up maybe going to South Carolina or north Florida that wanted to have like a brunch event on Sunday, but you couldn’t do that in Georgia.”

He made the motion back at the Aug. 7 council meeting to request the special election.  Councilman Derek Duke seconded the motion, and it passed 5-0. The Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration then approved holding the special election on the same dates as the county and state election.

“You know what? We put it on the ballot and let the voters decide, and what better way to do this than democracy,” Boyum said.

Under the wording of the state law, the extension of pouring hours can apply to places licensed to sell alcohol that make at least 50 percent of their revenue either from the sale of food or from the rental of rooms for overnight lodging. Statesboro requires a Sunday sales permit for places meeting the state requirements.

The referendum would not extend the hours when stores can sell packaged beer and wine on Sundays.


Boro brunches

Becky Davis, executive director of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, confirmed that there is interest in the earlier wet brunch hour from the local restaurant and hotel industry. Of course Saturday sports events are a big draw for visitors to Statesboro.

“I know that brunch is very popular here among tourists and locals, and we would certainly like to see that pass, because I think it would encourage people who maybe would go home Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening, they might stay over an extra night and enjoy brunch,” Davis said. “We do have a few great restaurants that serve brunch right now, and if that bill passes, hopefully we’d see even more.”

Some wet restaurants do serve a Sunday brunch, just without alcoholic drinks until the afternoon. But certain mixed drinks, such as mimosas and bloody marys, are associated with restaurant brunches.

Soyumi Asian Kitchen currently serves a popular brunch, Saturday only.

The existing law with the 12:30 p.m. starting time for drink sales is the reason Soyumi hasn’t tried offering a Sunday brunch, said the restaurant’s owner, Adam Tsang.

“When you’re operating something like this, one thing that hinders it is if there’s any sort of complexity,” he said. “So for us on Saturday it’s easy because from the moment that we open we can go ahead and start moving that product. Otherwise, we’re having to turn back and ask, ‘Oh, can we serve it now?’ ‘Can we not serve it now?’”


Separate election

This is the second time this year a Statesboro city election has been held this way, technically separate from a county election but on exactly the same dates and in some of the same places.

But the first one, held in conjunction with the May 22 statewide primary, was to fill a City Council vacancy in District 5, so only about one-fifth of Statesboro was affected. That election resulted in a runoff on a different date.

No runoff appears possible with the “yes” or “no” Brunch Bill referendum. But it again presents the prospect of some voters having to go to two different voting places on Election Day, and this time in a city-wide election.

The city has only two voting precincts, Statesboro 1 at the William James Educational Complex on Williams Road, and Statesboro 2 at Pittman Park United Methodist Church on Fair Road. Meanwhile, the county has several precincts that include parts of Statesboro. So unless a Statesboro resident’s county precinct happens to be at the William James Complex or at Pittman Park, that person would have to go to one voting house for the statewide, congressional and county election  and to a different voting house for the city’s one-item special  election.

Even at Pittman Park and the Williams James Complex, the city special election will have a separate line and separate machines from those used in the general election.


Early voting simplifies

A way to avoid having to vote in two different places is to vote early. The county’s early voting places will all be equipped to accommodate early voters in the city referendum. The early voting locations and times are the Bulloch County Annex on North Main Street, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Oct. 15-Nov. 2, Monday through Friday, plus one Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; the Honey Bowen Building at 1 Max Lockwood Drive, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Oct. 29-Nov. 2; and on the Georgia Southern University campus, Room 1042 of the Russell Union, 85 Georgia Ave., Oct. 23 through Oct. 25, also 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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