Sunday, November 13, 2011

Alcohol Sales on Sunday - the Catch-22

Sporadic start dates muddle transition |

The article above quotes Bob Leavey, owner of d'Vine Wine Bar in the Shops of Dunwoody (my favorite watering hole) regarding the Sunday alcohol sales referendum.

The question passed by about 80% in Dunwoody on election day. Dunwoody alcohol sales begin on December 4.

I looked over the ballot closely when I voted and also reviewed some of the sample ballot questions posted online. Not once did I see anything about an additional $1,100 fee for the privilege. Were it not for the memorandum from Chris Pike on John's blog, I would have thought the AJC got it wrong. The item is up for discussion at Monday's council meeting.

The last page is fascinating. In addition to a $4,000 license for a full-service bar, plus additional "nickel and dime" fees for employees that pour and wine tastings and whatnot, there's an additional $1,100 just for Sunday! Where did this number come from? Outer space?

So for these small outfits to meet the obvious demand for sales on Sunday and remain competitive with larger stores (like Total Wine) and restaurants and supermarkets, they have to pay an extra fee and stay open. But if they pay the extra fee they stand to lose a chunk of profit so the competitiveness doesn't pay off. Classic Catch-22.

Most bars and liquor stores are stereotypical "mom and pop" outfits. Bob aludes to that himself in the AJC article. Like most small businesses they don't have extra cash just lying around; everything is invested in making the business function. A couple of years ago, when the discussion of Sunday alcohol sales was first raised, I had a fascinating conversation with one of the owners of the Rhapsody Bottle Shop in Orchard Park. They were against selling on Sundays. Not because of any religious concerns (they sell alcohol for a living - duh) but because they were just a family outfit and Sunday was the only day they could take off and rest. Supermarkets are always going to sell and additional fees or hours won't even make a dent in their bottom line.

So the only people this fee will harm are the small, local family-owned outfits. 

So whadaya think of the additional fees to buy liquor on Sundays? There's a poll on the bottom of the page. But if you really want to make a point, call Chris Pike and tell him yourself at 678-382-6700 or email him at Don't forget to comment on the Council Agenda post on John's blog. Make sure the rest of City Council knows what you think too starting with the Mayor (there are links to the other city council members' pages from here). Don't forget our not-yet-inaugurated new city council member Lynn Deutsch and the gentlemen continuing their campaigns in a runoff. If you have the time tomorrow night, show up at City Hall and look them in the eye when you tell them what a rotten idea this is because it shafts our small business owners.

All that legal paperwork for one simple convenience and it may or may not be as simple as we thought because of an additional fee. Unbelievable.


Anonymous said...

No Catch 22. If you want to sell on Sunday, it will cost you an extra $1100. That is approximately $21 a Sunday. It is optional.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

I think you're stretching the definition of "optional" a little too far in this case. A business wants to meet its demand but instead of just measuring their usual costs of doing business, the city is levying an additional tax based only upon the day of the week the establishment is open. What other business fee is levied on this criterion? None. A lawsuit isn't impossible.

If we look more closely at your analogy of cost breakdown ($21 per Sunday, roughly) it still doesn't hold up. Using the basic fees levied for a full-service bar, a store/bar is only charged $13-14 per day to be open Monday through Saturday. They're still being charged 50% more to be open on a Sunday.

I just can't get my head around the justification. I would truly like to understand your rationalization for the fees. Something beyond "city hall can do it so that's that".