More open alcohol rules pass in Walker County

More open alcohol rules pass in Walker County

November 7th, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

A shopper peruses Costco's wine section, which contains signs alerting customers to Georgia's law against alcohol sales on Sundays. A referendum on November's ballot may allow Georgians to buy alcohol on Sundays.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

After Tuesday's election, Jennifer McSpadden plans to mix new ingredients into her pizzas. Gravy. Eggs. Bacon. Vegetables.

"It's really delicious," she promised of the planned breakfast dish.

McSpadden, the owner of Pie Slingers Pizza and Phantom Horse Brewing Company in Rock Spring, Georgia, believes she can finally create a brunch atmosphere at her restaurant. She opened the business in 2009, but said she's been pushing for years to unlock the key to an early Sunday afternoon crowd: alcohol.

LaFayette, Ga., Mayor Andy Arnold announces that the Chattanooga Street Tavern can sell alcohol again pending a May 9 hearing during City Council meeting held Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014.

LaFayette, Ga., Mayor Andy Arnold announces that the...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The county has not allowed Pie Slingers or any other restaurant to sell wine, beer or liquor on Sundays. But that changed Tuesday, when voters passed a couple of alcohol-related referendums in Walker County.

McSpadden said the new laws, when they officially take effect, can change businesses in the community. At her place, she will sell the breakfast pizza. She also will offer mimosas and maybe some other mixed drinks for a brunch crowd. She might change the hours of the restaurant, which now opens at noon. She also hopes a football crowd, which usually requires a squeeze of alcoholic lubricant, will begin to stream into the restaurant the way they do on Saturdays.

"These are all things in flux," she said.

Voters in Walker County adopted a referendum allowing Sunday sales by the drink in a 12,876-8,220 vote. Restaurants in the community will be able to sell drinks at 11 a.m. on Sundays, once the law officially takes effect. Until now, the county only allowed alcohol sales by the drink Monday through Saturday.

Voters also approved a referendum allowing stores to sell packages of wine and beer beginning at noon on Sundays in a 13,036-7,878 vote. Wine and beer sales already are allowed the other six days of the week. (Walker County does not allow liquor stores.)

It's not clear how many restaurants will adopt changes in the small, rural community. Jason Phibbs, owner of Phibbs Bar & Grill, said he will now open his restaurant on Sundays, beginning at 10 a.m. He plans to sell chicken and waffles, French toast and omelets, as well as a bloody mary bar.

"We've really been wanting to be open on Sunday, for no other reason than to be able to provide more for the county," he said. "Everyone has to go a far distance just to get brunch and bloody marys, a place to kick back on Sunday before Monday starts."

Earlier this year, the owner of the Pigeon Mountain Grill near the Kensington community told the Times Free Press that he also wants to sell alcohol to their Sunday crowds.

Changes are also afoot within the LaFayette city limits. Voters approved three similar alcohol-related referendums.

They approved of a referendum allowing stores to sell packages of beer and wine on Sundays, 983-637. Before, these sales were only allowed the other six days of the week.

Voters also approved two measures allowing alcohol sales by the drink. Beer and wine used to be available by the drink Monday through Saturday. But after approving a referendum, 982-635, restaurants will be able to sell drinks on Sunday.

Also, the city previously did not allow any liquor sales by the drink, no matter the day. But with the approval of a referendum, 1,046-567, restaurants will be able to sell liquor every day.

LaFayette Mayor Andy Arnold said some of the restaurants in town that sell alcohol pushed for the change. Still, he did not anticipate a great wave of new businesses.

"I don't think there's going to be a windfall of taxes from this," he said. "I don't think there's going to be a ton of new restaurants. I think it opens the door for restaurants who weren't into the city to come into the city. But I don't think there will be a large amount."

It's not clear yet when these laws will actually take effect. In LaFayette, the city council has to adopt the current alcohol ordinances. Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has to do the same thing.

Walker County spokesman Joe Legge said Whitfield hopes to make the change by the end of the year.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.