Dec. 7 was the first day alcohol could legally be sold at Richmond Hill restaurants, thanks to the recent passage of an ordinance allowing such sales.
And according to many local restaurant employees, Sunday business picked up substantially because customers no longer have to drive to Savannah to have a glass of beer or wine with their Sunday meal.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s owner Doug Goolsby said business was about double what is usually is on a Sunday.
"We saw our biggest surge between 1-6:30 p.m. – when the NFL games were on," Goolsby said. "Sunday is a big day for sports, so I look for this ordinance to make a positive impact on our business. Last Sunday was a great indication that it’s going to do exactly that."
Representatives from Molly MacPherson’s and Augie’s say the ordinance gives them a chance to open up for business on Sundays. Prior to the passing of the ordinance, owners of both establishments made the decision to close on Sundays.
"We started opening on Sundays in November to get people used to it," said Molly MacPherson manager Judy Hilburn. "Business was great this Sunday, and we’re all extremely excited about this opportunity."
Augie’s bartender Annie Harrell said Dec. 7 was the very first Sunday the restaurant was open, and the staff was pleasantly surprised with strong sales.
Meanwhile, the Richmond Hill Police Department has been getting the word out that every employee of every restaurant and store that sells alcohols in the city limits of Richmond Hill must possess an Alcohol Beverage Card (ABC) card by Jan. 1.
Chief Billy Reynolds said only 125 cards have been issued as of Thursday, which "I’m sure is not close to the actual number of people who will need to have one."
Reynolds said the law, which was tied into the new alcohol ordinance that allows Sunday sales, took effect Dec. 1 and the grace period is now until the end of the year. He said his officers will conduct compliance checks just after the first of the year. Employees caught without cards will receive citations that carry a fine up to $1,000.
In order to obtain an alcohol card, employees must come down to the Richmond Hill Police Department. A $10 fee must be paid and a background check will be run.
Going forward, card carriers who commit felony offenses or arrests linked to drugs or illegal alcohol sales after the first of the year will face having their ABC cards revoked. Reynolds said
ABC penalties regarding prior offenses will be waived because "we don’t want anyone to lose their jobs. We just want to create a better way to keep everyone legal."
So why is the city doing this? Reynolds, who brought this issue to the table, said a motivating factor in bringing ABC cards to Richmond Hill was to "control how alcohol is sold in the city and should help in keeping it out the hands of kids." He said the laws referenced in the ABC section of the ordinance are not new, but, up until now, there has not been a comprehensive way to monitor them.
"We’ve published the ordinance in the paper, there have been several articles about it and we’ve even sent a letter to all the businesses who must comply," Reynolds said. "So there will be no excuse not to have a card in January."
RHPD Cpl. Susan Willis said employees can apply for an alcoholic beverage card by filling out the paperwork Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and can pick up their card the following Friday during the same hours.
Goolsby said only one of his employees has gotten their card as of Thursday, "so I guess they’re waiting until the last minute, but they’ve all been notified."
Goolsby said he does not mind the ABC law, and it actually will serve to "help us police who we hire."