Will there be Sunday alcohol sales before Saint Patrick's Day? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Fight remains for Sunday alcohol sales before St. Patrick's Day


The fight to open up Savannah bars the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day continues.

The city attorney is expected to release a statement on the situation next week, according to city officials, including any options available, if there are any.

Right now, a change in state law is the only sure way bars that don't serve food will be open the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day, but is unlikely to happen soon, if at all.

There is one option the city is looking into and that is a special permit for bars to open and sell food as part of a festival. Sen. Lester Jackson said last year, state lawmakers expanded the food license to include a special license for food on special occasions. They are looking at doing the same thing for alcohol.

Right now, he calls it a very grey area so cities aren't sure what they can or cannot do.

Jackson says he and other state senators want to make it clearly defined.

"So we are looking at having and allowing municipalities to have a special license for liquor on those special occasions and festivals. They can expand Sunday sales for bars just on those festival occasions, so, in other words, a two day pass to allow them to serve alcohol without breaking any existing laws," Jackson told WTOC.

The only other option would be to change state law completely and allow Sunday sales year-round. Jackson calls it an uphill battle for many reasons.

Topping the list he says are very strong lobbyists in Atlanta against allowing bars who don't serve food to open on Sundays. Add in activist groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and religious groups and Senator Jackson says the opposition is tough.

Jackson says he is all for local control and leaving it up to the voters in each municipality, but a state referendum allowing that to happen is not likely to happen this year.

While he supports a special festival license for local bars, which the city is still looking into, Jackson explains why the Sunday sales of alcohol for bars may not be a top priority, especially this year.

"It's an election year in a traditional Bible Baptist conservative state. The only municipalities that could benefit would be Savannah for St. Patrick's Day and Augusta for a little golf tournament they have called the Masters. Other than that, all the other municipalities, this is probably something they wouldn't embrace," Jackson said.

The city has vowed to work with businesses as they begin St. Patrick's Day festival planning and the city attorney will have something to announce on his efforts to find an option for bars sometime next week.

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