Houston & Peach

Midstate liquor stores don’t benefit from Sunday sales, owners say

WARNER ROBINS -- Allowing liquor stores to open on Sunday may be more convenient for drinkers, but it hasn’t been especially beneficial to liquor store owners.

In the months since voters in several midstate cities approved packaged liquor sales on Sunday, store owners in Warner Robins and Macon say it hasn’t helped their bottom line. If anything, it has hurt.

Andre Cates, owner of Andre’s Liquor Shoppe in Macon, said his overall sales are about the same as before he started opening on Sunday. He voted against Sunday liquor sales and said many other owners felt the same way, but not opening now would mean losing too much business to competitors.

“I’m invested now,” he said. “It would be hard to pull out.”

Most liquor stores are owner-operated, and Sunday was owners’ only day off. They also had to pay an increased liquor license fee to open on Sunday.

Liquor store owners in Warner Robins were even more strongly against opening on Sunday. For the first couple of months after sales were allowed, not one liquor store opened on Sunday. However, it wasn’t long before the ranks began to break. Now 11 of the 12 package stores in Warner Robins are open on Sunday. The only holdout is Top Shelf Liquor on South Houston Lake Road.

“One by one, everybody started to open,” said Dave Patel, who works at American Liquor Store on Watson Boulevard. “If we didn’t, our regular customers would go to some other place.”

The city of Warner Robins actually changed its ordinance to accommodate stores that didn’t want to open on Sunday. Originally, after the referendum passed in November, council raised the liquor license fee from $4,500 to $5,000 to account for the extra day of sales.

But when it became clear stores didn’t want to open on Sunday, council changed it, so store owners only had to pay the extra fee if they did open on Sunday. Since that time, owners have come in and paid the extra $500 to open.

Bobby Patel, manager of Rocky Mountain Liquors on Watson Boulevard, reluctantly began opening on Sunday about three months ago. He also said once other stores starting opening, he didn’t feel he had much choice.

Basically, the sales he does have on Sunday now are offset by lower sales on Saturday. “I would close on Sunday now if everybody else did,” he said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.