A surprise push for Sunday alcohol sales in Georgia met opposition during a debate on the Senate floor Monday and was killed for the time being.
A bill dealing with other aspects of alcohol sales, including selling beer on Sunday at the new Gwinnett Stadium, became a big deal Monday when one senator added an amendment to allow for a vote on Sunday alcohol sales in localities across Georgia.
Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland) argued for his Sunday alcohol sales amendment, saying, “It’s time. It’s time. It’s time.”
After lengthy debate, and much parliamentary maneuvering, Harp’s proposal to allow Sunday sales in Georgia was gutted by another amendment.
It is unlikely the statewide Sunday sales proposal will surface again this session, said Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville).
The underlying legislation, House Bill 115, would have allowed a county, in certain circumstances, to issue a liquor license for Sunday sales. The intent was to pave the way for beer at Sunday games at Gwinnett’s ball park, home to the Gwinnett Braves.
That bill was put aside, or tabled, by a vote of 37 to 18 on Monday.
Gwinnett officials said even though the state law did not pass the Legislature today, fans will still be able to buy beer at the stadium during opening weekend next month. Gwinnett County’s top licensing official, David O’Kelley, said he’ll issue a liquor license under a county law that allows Sunday sales at businesses where food accounts for more than 50 percent of annual sales.
“We’re sitting on the license and we can go at any time,” O’Kelley said.
Many senators voted against the Gwinnett Stadium bill because another amendment made the bill untenable.
Sen. Dan Moody (R-Alpharetta), proposed an amendment which would have suspended an establishment’s liquor license for two years if it sold alcohol to a minor one time. That would put many companies out of business after one mistake, Harp said.
Moody’s amendment also removed Harp’s Sunday sales amendment entirely.
The severe measure of taking away a liquor license for two years for one mistake was too strict for most senators to support.
That is why the Gwinnett Stadium bill was tabled.
“He gave it a poison pill that nobody could swallow,” Balfour said of Moody’s amendment.
The point of Moody’s amendment was two-fold. He intended to kill Harp’s Sunday sales bill while avoiding an on-the-record vote directly on the topic. Instead, the amendment called for a vote about punishment of underage alcohol sales.
The result is that the proposal for statewide Sunday sales was tabled and no fingerprints were left behind.
Staff writer Michael Pearson contributed to this report.