Covington and Porterdale voters approved Sunday package sales Nov. 8, but customers can’t yet buy any form of alcohol on Sundays and they may not be able to buy liquor on Sunday anytime soon.
Porterdale’s convenience stores will legally be able to sell beer and wine beginning Sunday, Dec. 18, while the Covington City Council is expected to approve the second and final reading of its Sunday sales ordinance at its Dec. 5 council meeting, which would make Dec. 11 the first effective date. Alcohol will be able to be sold on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Covington City Manager Steve Horton cautioned alcohol store owners not to assume the ordinance would be passed; he recommended they call the city clerk, beginning Dec. 6, at (770) 385-2010 to ensure the ordinance received final approval and has been signed by the mayor.
While convenience and grocery stores welcome Sunday sales, Covington’s package stores are balking at the change. Owners say opening on Sunday forces them to pay additional utility and employee costs, while simply splitting existing revenue across a seventh day.
“I don’t want to open up, but we’re thinking if all the liquor stores in town decided they’re not going to open, then we won’t have to,” said Hardik Patel, owner of Hester’s Package. “But if one will open up, then everybody will have to open. I work here Monday to Saturday, 80 hours almost. There’s no point to open up for a half day on Sunday. If people want to buy they already have the six days Monday through Saturday.”
Hardik said about 60 percent of his revenue is from liquor sales. Because groceries in Georgia are not allowed to sell liquor, package stores do not have to worry about other stores stealing their liquor revenue.
“The employees are not thrilled. Sunday is our day off. Right now we only get two days off a week,” said an employee with DJ’s Package Store. “Everybody doubles up on Saturday. Now if they’re not going to, we’ll have to be open Sunday to make up what miss on Saturday. If we’re not busy, we may not make up the loss if they’re going to convenience stores or grocery stores.”
Newton Package Shop’s general manager said his store is not planning to open on Sunday either.
Grocery and convenience stores have been the main drivers behind the bill, aggressively lobbying the state legislature, according to previous reports.
Sunday is one of the busiest shopping days of the week.
“A lot of people do their shopping on Sunday, and we’re a busy Sunday store,” said the manager of the Kroger in Newton Plaza. “A lot of customers do complain because they can’t get alcohol on Sunday.”
U.S. Highway 278 QuikTrip Manager Matt Skinner said Sunday package sales would likely increase his store’s business by a small amount.
“We get the out-of-towners and they don’t know the normal Georgia laws. Even though we’re way out in Covington, we get a lot of South Carolina residents. Most everybody in Georgia knows they can’t buy on Sundays, so they usually load up on Saturday.”
Georgia was one of three remaining states — including Indiana and Connecticut — that did not allow Sunday alcohol sales, and the last Southern holdout, according to the Associated Press.
Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall said previously the chamber does not have an official position on Sunday package sales.
Covington voters approved Sunday sales with 65 percent support (868 yes votes), while the margin was much smaller in Porterdale at 53 percent (106 votes).
Newborn and Social Circle both allow alcohol by the drink in their restaurants, but neither of the cities pursued Sunday package sales this year.