HELEN — The Helen City Commission has learned what it will take to put the so-called “Sunday Brunch Bill” on the ballot so the tourist city’s restaurants potentially can serve alcohol with brunch or lunch beginning at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Mayor Jeff Ash provided an update on the issue during the commission’s called meeting Tuesday.
In May, Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 17 (SB 17), allowing restaurants to serve alcohol on Sundays starting at 11 a.m. rather 12:30 p.m. provided the measure is approved by local voters then passed as a local ordinance.
“When this law passed, we thought that it might require only an ordinance change since we already had approved Sunday sales,” Ash said. “That is not the way the bill was written. It requires a mandatory vote, which is not a problem.”
But that public vote will take time, falling in November to coincide but not co-mingle with the General Election.
“We thought we could do it quicker, but the way the bill was written it has to match up with the Georgia election laws, so the earliest that we can have an up vote or no vote on it is November,” Ash said.
“This ballot has to be kept separate, so we’ll have a second voting area manned by a poll worker and [utilizing] a paper ballot,” Ash said. “You would have to show proof of residency within the city, as well as identification.”
Still, Ash and other city leaders believe the additional 90 minutes of serving time could have a significant economic impact on the city’s eateries and servers.
“We have 1,100 hotel rooms in town, so on Sunday morning we would like for those people to get up, check out, visit one of our restaurants on the way out,” Ash said.
“We don’t anticipate it not passing because we’ve got a lot of good restaurants, and we’ve got a lot of people in Helen, Ga., on Sunday morning that are heading out,” Ash said. “This is going to pass in other cities, so we’ve got to maintain that competitive edge.”
According to SB 17, the paper ballot will contain the following language:
“Shall the governing authority of (name of municipality or county) be authorized to permit and regulate Sunday sales of distilled spirits or alcoholic beverages for beverage purposes by the drink from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.?”
As is standard in a referendum, all voters will select YES or NO on the ballot, with the measure passing if more than 50 percent vote in favor.