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Some area restaurants take advantage of happy hour ordinance
Patrons sit outside AJ’s Food Fun & Friends on Tuesday during happy hour. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

In many cities, the 5 p.m. whistle signals freedom — and the chance to enjoy a late-afternoon cocktail.

And after last month’s decision by the Gainesville City Council to allow a happy hour during the week, now folks in Gainesville can wind down after the work day at a local watering hole, too.

The city of Gainesville gave final approval to the "Happy Hour Ordinance" on Aug. 19 and will allow restaurants in the city to sell drinks at a lower price from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

But despite the debate that raged among council members before the final vote, the response from local restaurants has been, well, a bit more muted.

"Nobody has really said that much about it one way or the other," said City Marshal Debbie Jones. "This isn’t an ordinance that says, ‘From 5 to 7 p.m. you will do a happy hour;’ it is there for those that want a happy hour. It just depends on if they want that after-work crowd."

On Spring Street, just off the downtown Gainesville square, AJ’s Food Fun & Friends has jumped at the chance to have a happy hour and was one of the first to implement drink specials.

"We were the first ones to go with the happy hour when they passed it, and we went with it," co-owner Bobby McLain said. "It (happy hour business) goes up and down; some people know about it and some people don’t."

Other local business owners say the new ordinance allows them to fill gaps

"Happy hours allows businesses like mine to fill hours that are typically slow," said Scott Dixon, owner of Scott’s on the Square and a member of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and a proponent of the law change.

"The 5 to 6:30 or 7 p.m. time frame, it allows us to have some revenue at a time where we wouldn’t have it because of the special promotion.

"I was for happy hour for a number of reasons; for one I think it levels the playing field so we can compete with places that can offer it."

Dixon has been in favor of the "Happy Hour Ordinance" from the beginning.

"Let responsible business people make responsible decisions ... I know regulations are there for a reason," Dixon said, adding that the ordinance allows patrons to make their own decisions.

"Somebody could come right after work. ... In these times everybody could probably could use a little help one way or the other."

According to the city, "Happy Hour Ordinance" restaurants can’t sell drinks cheaper than half price. Also, there can be no all-you-can-drink specials, no free drinks and no jumbo size or below-normal price drinks.

Monkey Barrel owner Josh Holt said they "haven’t actually started yet, but I do want to start half-price drinks for the happy-hour time."

And at Wild Wing Cafe, they are having a manager’s meeting today to decide exactly what happy-hour specials they will feature, according to Wild Wing Cafe manager Oliver White.

Loco’s has begun offering beer and shooter specials since the ordinance was implemented.

"We are going to run a $1 Miller High Life and we’ll have four $2 shooters that we’re gonna run," Loco’s manager Wes Thompson said. "And chances are we will have one liquor bottle per week at a discount price, we just haven’t worked that out yet."

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