I learned a long time ago that the two things one should never discuss at work are politics and religion.
Most of the time, I am a quick learner, so over the course of a couple of decades in journalism, I have managed to avoid these hot-button topics. That doesn't necessarily mean everyone else does. Sometimes contrasting points of view come up in the room. It happens.
Of course these days, social media creates enough venom, especially on the political side, to give even the most patient among us more than their fill of opinionated drivel. Lost among who should be deported, who should carry a gun or the contents of some high-level emails is a debate at the state level that is a very big deal to restaurant owners and the food and beverage community in general.
Back in 2011, when the state finally took a huge step in allowing alcohol sales on Sundays, the average person assumed that meant cocktails were fair game on Sunday mornings. It only made sense, right? I can recall being asked about a dozen times about the new law and what it meant for the average consumer. It meant you would no longer see a beer cooler at the grocery store with the lights off. You could purchase alcohol to consume at home, on a sidewalk, on a swing, at a picnic or at the beach.
However, you still weren't allowed to order a mimosa or bloody mary with your Sunday brunch. Anywhere. Not until 12:30 p.m., at any rate. The general reaction I got back then was, "Well, that's just stupid." Hard to disagree.
The Georgia Restaurant Association is behind an effort to get that changed.
"During that debate, some of those that supported did so based on a promise they made to the faith community to only authorize Sunday sales at 12:30 p.m. or later," says Rachel Bell, director of marketing and communications with the GRA. "Some may have made that promise in 2011 and feel that this is going against their word if they support HB 535."
House Bill 535 is a piece of legislation making its second journey through the Georgia legislature and the capitol building in Atlanta. It gained some momentum in 2015, but ultimately never made it to the floor for debate.
Will it pass this time? No one knows for sure, but like so many other debates in this state (and many other states, to be fair), rural communities are at opposite ends of the spectrum with city folk.
Other Southern states have different laws than Georgia does. Tennessee and North Carolina are most similar to Georgia's laws. They allow sales at noon on Sundays. Florida allows them at 7 a.m. Maybe that's why all of the best "News of the Weird" stories come from the Sunshine State.
Sarasota, Fla., largely a retirement and vacation community much like Hilton Head Island, passed its own law to start sales at 6 a.m.
How hard up must you be to demand a cocktail at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning? Of course, that does give you time to relax before my TV show airs at 7:30 a.m., right?
One would think the disconnect, at least here in Savannah, at any rate, is the fact that our historic district is one of only a few places in America where you can legally walk the city with an alcoholic beverage in your hand. Saturday evenings, tourists love the law here.
I've seen the smiles when they find out. Come Sunday morning, however, you can't even enjoy a bloody mary in a restaurant.
"We disappoint out-of-town guests every Sunday," says Brian Huskey, owner of B. Matthew's Eatery on Bay Street. "The law needs to be changed."
Downtown Savannah's most popular breakfast and brunch spot is probably The Collins Quarter. Owner Anthony Debreceny sees potential revenue - and as a result, tax revenue - just floating away every single Sunday as well.
"We get asked from the moment we open until 12:30," he tells me. "The problem with 12:30 is that most tourists are traveling home on Sunday and are looking to catch a plane or something. At 12:30, no one is ready to kick off" he adds.
By that time, everyone has eaten and it's time to move on. Which is more than understandable.
How do you explain then, that the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, for example, is allowed to serve alcohol beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Nissan Stadium in Nashville, where the Tennessee Titans play, can begin serving at 10 a.m. The restaurants surrounding these venues can't touch it until 12:30 p.m.
Private clubs around the state are allowed to serve at 10:30 a.m., but Georgia's roughly 4,000 restaurants cannot. The GRA estimates roughly $100 million in extra revenue could be generated across the state, 11 percent of that collected in tax revenue. It's no small figure.
Obviously, you won't find too many restaurants that are open for brunch whose owners will oppose the passage of this law.
"Sunday brunch is a popular part of the dining culture, and this is no different in Savannah," says Jamie Durrence, managing partner at Daniel Reed Hospitality. SOHO South Cafe is one of their properties. A very popular spot for brunch with the locals.
"Many of our laws, particularly our liquor laws and ordinances, have been antiquated for some time."
The belief right now is that there is a good shot the bill will pass this time around. If it does pass, ultimately it will be up to individual municipalities to decide if they want to come on board or not.
One would think the city of Savannah would come on board. But that doesn't mean Richmond Hill or Statesboro would have to do the same. Citizens there will decide.
With some more due diligence and a few dashes of forward thinking, we could have a mimosa on the table for Sunday brunch by July 1. Cheers to that!
See you on TV,