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‘Brunch Bill’ that would allow earlier Sunday alcohol sales resurfaces

Georgians could buy alcohol beginning at 11 a.m. on Sundays if a revived bill clears the Georgia General Assembly this year.

Senate Bill 17, also known as the Brunch Bill, cleared the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee at the end of January. The bill would allow restaurants and grocers to sell alcohol an hour and a half earlier on Sundays — beginning at 11 a.m. instead of 12:30 p.m.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who first introduced the Brunch Bill in 2017. It gained some traction in the Georgia House last year but didn’t pass before the end of the session. It’s also sponsored by Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is this year’s Senate president pro tem and the second-most powerful person in the state Senate.

Two local restaurants believe the bill would help their businesses as Sunday brunch becomes ever-bigger business in Gainesville.

Tina Roberts, owner of 2 Dog on Spring Street, said that her brunch service gets slammed at 12:30 p.m. on Sundays because of the restriction.

“I love to tell my legislators who actually eat here with us at brunch, ‘If you want to get the crowd out of 2 Dog so you can have a fricken table and not wait 45 minutes for one, well, let us sell alcohol earlier and get them out,’” she said.

Moving alcohol sales earlier wouldn’t just help  boost sales, but it would spread out the influx of people who are looking for a mimosa or a bloody mary with their egg hash.

“But more importantly, in my opinion — are we really discussing an hour and a half of alcohol service on Sunday?” Roberts said. “Are we still — are we seriously two adults sitting here discussing (whether) we should even be worried about an hour and a half difference on alcohol sales?”

Her brunch service has become more popular in the 20 years the restaurant has been open, from when it was open on the square to its new location on Spring Street.

“It’s the meal of the week that everybody wants to do,” she said.

And back on the square, Avocados General Manager Jim Montgomery also thinks the time change would be good for Sunday business.

While 2 Dog has a brunch menu, Avocados offers a brunch buffet.

“We’re open at 10, so we have this two and a half hours of being open and having people coming to us for brunch, and there’s nothing we can do (about alcohol) until 12:30,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got coffee and juice up until then.”

Locals have figured it out, he said, and the earlier brunch crowd tends to be teetotalers while the later crowd usually order alcohol with their buffet.

It starts getting tricky when out-of-state tourists visiting the mountains are thrown into the mix.

“They come down to the Gainesville square because we’re reliable for brunch, so when those folks come in we just have to tell them no alcohol until 12:30,” Montgomery said.

He noted that most local restaurants open at or close to 11 a.m. on Sundays except for those that serve breakfast. Moving alcohol sales closer to opening likely would ease the red tape for eateries across the board, Montgomery said.

“It would be a boon if it did pass,” he said of the Brunch Bill.