Hanging around the Capitol sometimes has its perks. On Wednesday, the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) held its 10th annual Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot. Thirty different restaurants from around Georgia showcased their wares to lobbyists, legislators, staff and guests. It’s an opportunity to fete some of the law writers, as well as highlight their partnership with the Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program.
“Georgia’s restaurants are increasingly planning their menus around locally grown foods, so it made sense for GRA to support this outstanding program,” says GRA Executive Director Karen Bremer. “We are proud to support Georgia Grown as an economic development program that helps connect restaurants with the state’s top producers. Participating restaurants can ensure that they are offering their customers top-quality food products, while supporting local growers and reducing their carbon footprint.”
There are some 18,000 different eating and drinking locations in Georgia, employing more than 450,000 people – roughly 10% of employment throughout the state. According to the National Restaurant Association, that number is projected to grow by 16%, an additional 70,000 jobs. Georgia restaurants totaled approximately $20 billion in sales in 2017.
The Association (lest there be any confusion saying the NRA), knowing what they’re doing as an advocacy agency, also breaks down the jobs number by individual congressman. Rep. John Lewis (D- 5), representing much of Atlanta, unsurprisingly has the most with more than 41,000. Rep. Karen Handel (R- 6) comes in at a close second at more than 39,000. Reps. Buddy Carter (R- 1) and Barry Loudermilk (R- 11) are tied for a somewhat distant third at approximately 30,000.
There is also a “Best Dish” competition at the event. Each attendee receives a red ticket and places it in the cup of their preferred provider. There were three runners up – two barbecue joints, Grand Champion BBQ and 4 Rivers Smokehouse, and Copeland’s of New Orleans (who featured a bread pudding that was truly great. The winner of overall Best Dish, Daddy O’Briens from Sugar Hill, should perhaps have been considered to have been cheating, featuring an alcohol-infused ice cream as their dish.
It’s not necessarily all fun and games and boozy ice creams for the GRA however. There are some legislative priorities that could mean big money for its members. The so-called Brunch Bill is the top priority. The bill would allow for the earlier sale of alcohol at 11:00 a.m., as opposed to 12:30 p.m., in restaurants on Sundays. Having passed the Senate, SB 17, sponsored by Senator Renee Unterman (R- 45 Buford), now heads to the House where it will be heard by the Regulated Industries committee. The GRA has estimated that allowing Sunday morning sales could generate an average of $25,000 per year for the state’s restaurants.