After weeks of uncertainty, Savannah's bar owners can now start planning their holiday schedule and placing orders.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 318 into law Thursday afternoon, allowing local drinking establishments to operate on Sunday for the St. Patrick's Day festival.
By the time Monday rolls around they will have to shutter their doors, however. The law only allows operation hours from 12:30 p.m. to midnight.
Since the City Council already passed a resolution at a Feb. 6 meeting allowing Sunday bar operations this weekend, pending passage of the state law, Deal's signature was the last act needed for the bill to become effective.
Bar owners will not have to do anything special to operate on Sunday, according to city spokesman Saja Aures.
If you're a bar owner operating a legit business, it will be at your discretion whether or not you take advantage of the Sunday sales opportunity, Aures said.
Bar owners should soon receive notices that they can stay open until 12 a.m., she said.
Bonnie Walden, owner of Bay Street Blues, said she is grateful that she can open, but she does not understand why bars will have to shut down by midnight, considering restaurants and hybrid establishments will be able to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.
A hybrid license, which the city created in late 2008, allows restaurants to close their kitchens but keep their bar areas open.
"It sounds like discrimination to me," Walden said.
The city has previously made an exception for another holiday. When New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday, bars can open at 12:01 a.m. on Monday and serve alcohol until 3:30 a.m. The last time this occurred was in 2006, when the ordinance change was passed 10 days before the holiday.
The St. Patrick's Day bill was introduced by Sen. Lester Jackson at the request of the City Council, along with a Georgia House of Representatives' version of the legislation introduced by Rep. Ron Stephens.
Savannah aldermen and Mayor Edna Jackson had requested the legislation so that bars could also benefit from the influx of visitors during the holiday weekend.
Retail stores and restaurants that make a majority of their revenue from food sales can already sell alcohol on Sundays.
Aldermen Tony Thomas and Van Johnson had pushed for bars to be able operate on Sundays throughout the year, but the bill was watered down to improve its chances of passing.
Jackson's bill had initially included other holiday weekends, but it was amended after that version failed to pass on Feb. 17 by one vote.