House Bill 535, nicknamed the “Brunch Bill,” would allow local governments to authorize restaurants to serve alcohol on Sundays starting at 10:30 a.m. Current state law prohibits alcohol sales before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.
The bill passed the Georgia House of Representatives during the 2015 session but failed to reach the Senate floor. On Jan. 11, the bill was recommitted to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee but has made no progress since, with the legislative session coming to a close March 24.
State Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) proposed the bill, claiming the state could bring in almost $11 million in additional tax revenue if restaurants could serve earlier on Sundays. The Georgia Restaurant Association found similar estimates, with 4,000 restaurants in the state each generating an extra $25,000 every year from two extra hours of sales, for a total of $100 million in revenue.
“The Brunch Bill is not only important economically for Georgia restaurants, hotels and local governments, it responds to a frequent request of literally thousands of Georgians to enjoy a freedom in their own communities currently available only to certain government-owned properties,” Harrell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
State-owned facilities, including the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center, can already begin serving alcohol at 10:30 a.m., since the current law only applies to privately owned restaurants.
Just more than five years ago, the purchase of alcohol on Sunday in Georgia was banned altogether. However, in November 2011, 127 cities and counties across the Peach State voted in a referendum on whether to allow the purchase of alcohol on Sunday in their respective area. Of the cities and counties that voted, 110 voted in favor of Sunday sales.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) has expressed opposition to the bill, telling the AJC the bill would disturb the “fragile compromise” between legislative leaders and the faith community over the allowing alcohol sales on Sunday morning.
“It offends the religious sensibilities of a large portion of the population,” he told the AJC.
Cowsert is a member of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee that is discussing the bill. When the bill passed the committee in 2015 by a 5-3 vote, Cowsert voted against it.
Cowsert could not be reached for comment before press time.