Calling All Lawyers…

OK, I’ll go ahead and admit this is a stretch, but it’s something I’ve been wondering for a while…that and I am seriously disappointed in the lack of movement on the Sunday Sales issue despite a clear majority of support throughout the state…

The House is set to vote on SB55 which allows a restaurant to put a cork back in your wine bottle if you don’t finish it – allowing you to take the unfinished portion home so that you won’t feel the need to finish off your overpriced wine and drive home drunk.  I am all for this and any measure that reduces drunk driving.  I hope it passes because it is a common sense measure.

My question is, though, does it create a loophole that will allow for Sunday sales from businesses that are currently allowed to serve on Sundays?

28 comments

  1. Demonbeck says:

    Convenience stores must have a license to sell food and easily make less than 50% of their revenue on alcohol sales. What is to stop them from selling wine to patrons on a Sunday if this bill is passed?

  2. StevePerkins says:

    I don’t get why so many posters and commentors on PP need state senators or lawyers to “interpret” bills for them. These things aren’t written in Latin… 9 times out of 10 they’re half a page long and written in pretty plain English. Just read the thing:

    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/fulltext/sb55.htm

    Basically, you’re limited to one bottle of wine per patron. It must be partially-consumed on the premises. It must have been purchased with a meal. Finally, the place of business must be a “restaurant” (which I presume would be determined on the nature of its business license and whether it’s subject to health inspections, etc).

    To me that sounds like you COULD wiggle around things if you wanted to, but it would be more trouble than it’s worth to do so. If the owner of “Bob’s Chicken Shack” decides to use his restaurant license to sell bottles of wine on Sunday, by having patrons take a sip on-site and purchasing a biscuit to go with it, then would he REALLY sell enough wine to offset the legal costs of hiring a lawyer to defend these grey areas when the state comes after him? I doubt it… this sounds more like an academic hypo on a law school exam than any serious issue in real life.

  3. Demonbeck says:

    Yes, Steve, but it sets up a precedent that allows people to purchase wine for home consumption on a Sunday. Allowing for sales of one type of alcoholic beverage from a specific business type while disallowing others is discriminatory.

    Could this practice be followed up on – allowing for Georgia’s judicial system to end this discriminatory practice and end the ban on Sunday sales statewide?

    Does the local 7-11 have to pass a health inspection to sell hot dogs and those little taquito dealies? Do they not have to have a license to do so?

  4. atlantaman says:

    On Sunday, they’ll be lining up outside Bob’s Chicken Shack to purchase the biscut and Thunderbird $1.99 special.

  5. Demonbeck says:

    If I own a restaurant and I’m getting a discounted rate on a bottle of wine from a distributor (which is another issue for another day), I’m going to be willing to waive a large portion of my usual 300% markup on a bottle of wine to get people in my restaurant to buy my food.

    Even if it is one day a week…

  6. MidGaDawg says:

    As for the convenience store theory, while the Kwik-E-Mart may have a license to serve food, their alcohol license only allows them to sell booze for OFF-premises consumption, which is probably more important than the restaurant rule.

    The actual text is “any *restaurant* which is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for *consumption ON the premises *” (asterisks and capitalization mine). Package stores, grocery stores, and 7-11s have much different alcohol licensing and rules than restaurants and bars, which prevents too much getting around this. But I, too, would like to see this abused in some of the ways listed above, with hopes of forcing the logical change. (BTW, I’m not a lawyer either, but I’m pretty sure all of the above is correct.)

  7. Bill Simon says:

    Steve,

    The REAL problem is that hardly any of the lawyers in the legislature know how to read these bills themselves.

    They probably do know their Latin…all except, perhaps, for “mea culpa”… 🙂

  8. MidGaDawg says:

    Here’s another tactic: Find a package store owned by someone (Jewish, Adventist, or anyone else who would celebrate the Sabbath on a non-Sunday) and bring suit on religious discrimination grounds — that it’s not fair for the state to jeopardize their livelihood by making them choose between ignoring their religious beliefs or only being open 5 days a week. Suits like these made the Supreme Court back in the days of real Blue Laws (when everybody had to close Sunday); the laws were upheld then but some of the dissents from then might provide the ammo needed to overturn this law now. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braunfeld_v._Brown for a notable case from 1961. I know changing laws through the courts isn’t the preferred method, and shouldn’t be needed with a GOP legislature, but sometimes bad laws just gotta go.

  9. Demonbeck says:

    I’m all for it, but I’d have to own a restaurant and celebrate the Sabbath on a day other than Sunday to do it.

    I’d be happy to pitch in for the legal fund though.

  10. StevePerkins says:

    > Yes, Steve, but it sets up a precedent that allows
    > people to purchase wine for home consumption
    > on a Sunday. Allowing for sales of one type of
    > alcoholic beverage from a specific business type
    > while disallowing others is discriminatory.

    Granted, I’m just a law STUDENT and not the real McCoy yet, but I don’t think this holds water. I’m allowed to drink 198-proof pure grain alcohol until my arteries implode, but I can’t buy a decent German dunkel bock import because a drink can only be so strong when it’s labeled as “beer”. Discrimination? Maybe, but the 21st Amendment gives states pretty free reign to do whatever they want in this area.

  11. Demonbeck says:

    Steve, I am sure you know more than I do about the law than I do. However, you have to admit this sets up a loophole that can be easily circumvented by a smart businessman who wants to generate business on Sundays. Not to mention the free press he/she would generate.

    Clearly, what needs to happen is the Sunday Sales issue should be tacked onto SB55 as an amendment and clear up any ambiguity altogether.

  12. Donkey Kong says:

    Think they’d consider including bottles of Jack Daniels in the bill?? They’d make me a happy man.

    Steve has a point. How many of us would go way out of our way for a partially drank bottle of WINE? I like wine as much as the next guy, especially with a good meal, but unless we’re talking about some of my pal Johnny Walker, I wouldn’t be desperate enough to pay a restaurant’s gouging price for a half bottle to take home. If I want to drink that badly, I’ll just go sit at the bar.

  13. Demonbeck says:

    As I responded to Steve earlier, Donkey Kong, the enterprising business owner would have to be willing to sacrifice a large percentage of the profit made on the wine markup in order to make the profit off of customers purchasing meals with their wine.

    For instance, if I am taking my family to lunch on Sunday and I am deciding between restaurant X and Restaurant Y, knowing that one will sell me a bottle of wine to take home for dinner that night would probably sway me in that direction over the other.

  14. StevePerkins says:

    Why would take a perfectly reasonable bill that should pass, and tack on a poison pill amendment that would sink the whole thing? I support your position also, but you have to be smart about how you get there.

    I’m sure that lots of pro-life activists think, “There’s such broad support for this partial-birth abortion ban legislation… why not just tack on an amendment covering ALL abortions?” However, getting greedy like that would just prevent them from taking a step forward at all. To REALLY change people’s hearts and minds on any issue, you have to go about it in steps… so that at each step along the way they can see that change doesn’t cause the sky to fall.

  15. Donkey Kong says:

    Demonbeck, I agree, a smart businessman would have to cut their prices. But even if they do cut their prices, your average drinking Joe will not care enough about a half bottle of wine to go through all this trouble. Some will, but not many. It would still be easier to buy your Sunday beer on Saturday.

  16. Demonbeck says:

    Donkey Kong,

    It doesn’t have to be a half drunk bottle of wine. The bill only states that one “partially consumed bottle” per patron can be taken from the restaurant.

    Partially consumed can mean all but a drop or only a drop. If the foil at the top of the bottle is merely cut or removed, no police officer is going to know how much of a bottle of wine has been consumed or even if any part of the bottle has been consumed.

    Again, the restaurant owner can act as a wine shop selling wine on Sundays to patrons. All he/she has to do is cut the foil on the wine (technically they have to open and reseal the bottle), sell the patron a stick of gum and provide a receipt.

  17. StevePerkins says:

    Demonbeck, one of the reasons we have judges is to interpret how key words in statutes will be applied to real life circumstances. SB55 requires wine to have been purchased “with a meal”. If a restaurant owner tries to argue that a stick of gum is a “meal”, I can guarantee that the State will stick it to him and force him to convince a judge of that. Given that the state has near-unlimited legal resources while private counsel for small businessmen runs $300-600/hr and up… and given that it’s such a B.S. argument to begin with… I just don’t foresee many restaurant owners rolling those dice.

    I’m not really sure where you’re going with this post and follow-up comments. After all, there are a MILLION tax loopholes that could be exploited on paper, but aren’t a problem because there’s no practical way to exploit them in real life. Congratulations… you’ve discovered that laws are messy and seldom 100% airtight. So what? Do you honestly believe that harping ad nauseum on technicalities will change one single mind on the issue of Sunday sales?

  18. Demonbeck says:

    Fine Steve, switch “stick of gum” with “sandwich,” does it really make all that much of a difference?

    As for my motives, what I am hoping is that someone will see the folly of not allowing private stores to sell alcohol on Sundays. Georgia’s blue laws are more backasswards than those of South Carolina – the state that invented backasswards blue laws.

  19. Nimrod says:

    “This is my blood…”

    We just need communion every Sunday and in greater volumes! Thanks be to Jesus and thankfully its red wine!

  20. Chris says:

    Rugby and I finally agree on something (other than Jason is no friend of the taxpayer). Ditch the blends, go with single malts.

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