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Gainesville council says happy hours OK, but not on Sunday

In-city restaurants allowed drink specials from 5-7 p.m.

POSTED: August 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Gainesville City Council members said yes to a happy hour ordinance Tuesday, but added a stipulation that keeps restaurant owners from selling cheaper alcohol on Sunday.

Three council members voted to approve the ordinance, which allows restaurant owners to sell drinks at discounted prices from 5-7 p.m., with an added condition that happy hour specials be limited to Monday through Saturday.

The ordinance came to the council already carrying restrictions on how and when restaurant owners could conduct their happy hours by prohibiting the following: sale of alcoholic beverages at less than half-price, holding "all you can drink" specials, offering free drinks or selling beverages in pitchers or "jumbo" sizes for less than the normal price.

The ordinance also prohibits restaurants from using coupons or holding contests with a primary purpose of increasing the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

In addition, restaurants still must hold to the city’s 50/ 50 rule, which requires that food sales comprise at least 50 percent of revenue.

City Councilman Danny Dunagan asked for the Sunday prohibition before he voted to approve the ordinance, a move he attributed to his morals.

"I just think we don’t need to be promoting alcohol on Sundays," Dunagan said after the meeting.

Two council members who have previously expressed opposition to the ordinance, Robert "Bob" Hamrick and George Wangemann, moved for more restrictive measures that would limit happy hours from Monday to Thursday.

The motion failed. After the meeting, Wangemann said he and Hamrick knew that the ordinance would be approved, but had hoped they could reach a compromise that had a "lesser impact than what they were proposing."

Having happy hour on workdays only would make it less of a problem, Wangemann said after the meeting.

"Weekends people have free, and you know, the more time ... they’re allowed to drink, the more potential trouble you may have in your city," Wangemann said. "Our police department does a good job of policing that, but the more you loosen up your ordinances, the more challenging it is to police that."

The ordinance passed as Dunagan amended it with the supporting votes of Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner and Mayor Myrtle Figueras.

Along with the dubbed "Happy Hour Ordinance," Gainesville City Council members also approved a slew of changes that made city ordinances consistent with new state laws, such as Merlot-to-go, which allows restaurant patrons to take home partially consumed bottles of wine.

Other administrative changes require alcoholic beverage licensees to apply and pay for the next year’s alcoholic beverage license by Nov. 15, and allow for new licensees to pay a pro-rated license fee if they apply for the current year’s license after July 1.



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