Georgia fireworks fans can celebrate as new law goes into effect today

Georgia fireworks fans can celebrate as new law goes into effect today

Firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rocket sales now legal

July 1st, 2015 by Tim Omarzu in Business Around the Region

Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press The new TNT Fireworks store on North Glenwood in Dalton, Ga., is photographed on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. New state laws regulating fireworks take effect July 1, 2015, increasing the taxes of firework sales and allowing for the sale of larger fireworks. Larger fireworks must be sold in a permanent building and may not be sold in tents.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

“I think a lot of customers are going to be buying more here because they won't have to drive a 20-minute drive to go to Tennessee."”
Dania Sosa

Dania Sosa has sold sparklers, fountains and other small, nonexplosive fireworks for the past eight years at a TNT Fireworks tent in Dalton, Ga.

Business should pick up today, since Georgia's new law loosening restrictions on fireworks sales takes effect, and TNT will open a storefront in Dalton and 50 other locations in the Peach State to sell formerly forbidden "consumer fireworks" such as bottle rockets, firecrackers and Roman candles.

"This year, we're going to get all the big stuff," Sosa said Tuesday. "I have a lot of people coming by and asking already. We're excited to see how much product we sell."

The new law means Georgia residents won't have to travel to Tennessee, Alabama or South Carolina to legally buy fireworks.

Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press David Aguilar rolls up the sides of a TNT Fireworks tent in the parking lot of a shopping center on North Glenwood in Dalton, Ga., on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. New state laws regulating fireworks take effect July 1, 2015, increasing the taxes of firework sales and allowing for the sale of larger fireworks. Larger fireworks must be sold in a permanent building and not in tents, and TNT is opening a store for that purpose, seen in the background.

Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Brad Marler shops in a TNT Fireworks tent in the parking lot of a shopping center on North Glenwood in Dalton, Ga., on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. New state laws regulating fireworks take effect July 1, 2015, increasing the taxes of firework sales and allowing for the sale of larger fireworks. Larger fireworks must be sold in a permanent building, and not in tents, and TNT is opening a store for that purpose in the shopping center.

Brad Marler shops in a TNT Fireworks tent...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

"I think a lot of customers are going to be buying more here," Sosa said, "because they won't have to drive a 20-minute drive to go to Tennessee."

Georgia had about 424 businesses apply for a $5,000 license to sell the bigger fireworks, said Laura Wright, spokeswoman for the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, which issues the licenses. But even more permits were issued, she said, because big players such as Costco and Wal-mart only had to get one $5,000 license for permits to sell in multiple locations.

"It kind of favors the bigger stores in the sense that you only have to have one license," Wright said.

Georgia's new law doesn't let businesses sell consumer fireworks in a tent, though it's OK for nonprofit organizations to use a temporary stand.

So TNT Fireworks, the nation's largest fireworks distributor, plans to open 51 storefronts in Georgia, mostly which will be just for the 4th of July holiday, including the one Sosa manages in Dalton in a strip mall anchored by Bi-Lo at North Bypass and Cleveland Highway.

TNT also will sell its fireworks at 200 stores, including Wal-Mart, Costco and Kroger, said Sherri Simmons, a spokeswoman for TNT Fireworks.

"We definitely think that [Georgia] sales will increase," Simmons said.

Under Georgia's new fireworks law, some licensing fees will got toward public safety purposes. Consumer fireworks also will be subject to a 5 percent excise tax in addition to state and local taxes. The excise tax isn't designated for any special purpose.

The taxes on Georgia fireworks may keep its residents coming to Tennessee to buy fireworks, said Marlena Locke, co-owner of the locally-owned, family-run Dixieland Fireworks on Ringgold Road in East Ridge.

"We're heard the tax on them's going to really high," Locke said. "If they can save $30 or $40, they'll drive up here."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.