Georgia blue laws are famously complicated. Restaurants—defined as establishments that sell alcohol but make a significant amount of their revenue from food—are allowed to serve alcohol on Sundays. Bars—which make their money primarily from alcohol—can’t open. That’s why you can catch a show at The Foundry on a Sunday night, but not the 40 Watt. In addition, restaurants have to stop serving alcohol at midnight on Sundays. Making things even more confusing, last call Monday through Saturday is set by local ordinance, but on Sunday it’s state law.
In 2015, seeking to extend the city’s popular St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Savannah officials asked one of their state senators to file a bill allowing local bars to open the Sunday before the holiday. The resulting legislation—which allows all municipalities to choose one Sunday per year when bars can open—didn’t pass that year, but it did in 2016 (signed into law by teetotaling Baptist Gov. Nathan Deal, no less).
Under the state law, the hours when bars can serve booze on the chosen Sunday are the same as for restaurants: 12:30 p.m.–midnight. But ACC commissioners passed an ordinance earlier this year allowing bars to open from midnight–2:30 a.m. on the Monday following that Sunday. So, essentially, bars can stay open as late as they could any other night of the week.
After soliciting feedback from bar owners, the commission chose New Year’s Eve as the Sunday when bars can open in 2017. Next year, when New Year’s Eve falls on a Monday, bar owners overwhelmingly chose Feb. 4—Super Bowl Sunday—over the Sunday of AthFest and other options. The commission is scheduled to vote on that recommendation at its Jan. 2 meeting. In future years, the exception could be used for Halloween, the Fourth of July or any other occasion that falls on a Sunday when people are apt to go out drinking.
Why not just let bars open every Sunday? Who knows? It’s Georgia. Lawmakers haven’t even been able to agree to let folks drink a Bloody Mary while other people are at church.
Long story short, at least you can ring in the new year at the bar of your choice (see p. 13 for a few options), and local bars and their employees won’t miss out on a lucrative night. Cheers!