ABC Board forcing Sunday alcohol sales issue

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A second notice, sent to Shelby County restaurants that currently sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday, notifies them they will not be able to renew their private club license when it expires Sept. 30.

This notice is different than the original sent by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has changed the way it will interpret and enforce issuing liquor licenses to restaurants in the state, said one Alabaster restaurant manager.

About 25 Shelby County restaurants hold “dual” licenses — a retail restaurant license and a private club license, which allows for Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages.

No longer will the Alabama ABC issue dual licenses to restaurants. The first notice it sent notified restaurant owners they must choose by May which license they will operate under when their current license expires in September.

However, the second notice sent by the ABC Board, dated Jan. 29, reads, “You will only be permitted to renew the license type that matches your business operation.”

Bob Martin, an attorney and spokesman for the ABC Board, said the dual licensing of restaurants was simply a way around the prohibition of liquor sales in Alabama on Sundays.

The private club license, he said, was intended for use by groups like the VFW or country clubs, whose members must be approved by a committee of other members.

Tim Spencer, general manager of Buffalo Wild Wings in Alabaster, said the potential loss of revenue will be damaging to not only his business, but to the city and state, too.

“Alabaster already has had two restaurants pull their contracts over this. Many chain restaurants won’t even consider locating in an area that doesn’t allow alcohol sales seven days a week,” he said.

Spencer said the issue is apparently an effort to force the state legislature to pave the way for Sunday alcohol sales in Alabama.

“There is legislation pending that could allow cities to put the issue to a vote, but the stickler with that is (State Sen.) Hank Erwin,” he said. “It’s 2009. If you want to get a drink on Sunday, you should be able to get a drink, but we have one senator blocking that. This issue would easily pass in a vote of the people nowadays. At the very least, the people deserve to vote on it.”