In the United States, alcohol sales are regulated by state governments. In many states, however, liquor laws will also vary notably from county to county. The Peach State is one of several states that allows individual counties to create their own rules and regulations around alcohol sales. During COVID-19, the state government made some statewide changes to alcohol policies to help restaurants stay afloat. Let’s unpack how the pandemic has shaped current liquor laws surrounding alcohol sales in Georgia.
How COVID-19 has Affected Alcohol Sales in Georgia
On May 5, 2021, a bill that would permanently allow restaurants to sell to-go cocktails was signed into law. The new law is designed to help businesses recover from the devastating financial effects of the pandemic. Restaurants are permitted to sell a maximum of two alcoholic beverages per entree and must be sold in sealed containers. Also, customers must place the drinks in the glove box or trunk of their car while in transport, and in cases where there isn’t a trunk, the drink must be placed in the furthest seat away from the driver. Local municipalities are not required to participate in offering to-go cocktails.
Additionally, in late 2020, it became legal for retail stores to offer home delivery of beer, wine and liquor. However, the law does not apply to local breweries and distilleries.
Currently, there is a new bill (SB 219) before the General Assembly that would allow breweries to sell more beer annually and transfer beer between locations. The bill puts for measures that would support distribution efforts and would be primarily beneficial to larger breweries. Smaller breweries that don’t meet the new annual production cap would still be required to abide by the 288-ounce daily to-go cap, which applies to direct to consumer sales.
When Can I Purchase Alcohol in Georgia?
In Georgia, distilled spirits can only be purchased at licensed package stores, whereas beer and wine can be purchased at convenience and grocery stores. Although the individual counties are allowed to set the days and time frames for alcohol sales, they may not permit sales before 8 a.m. or after 11:45 p.m. from Monday through Saturday.
As stated, these rules do not apply to all of the municipalities in Georgia: Coweta, Dodge, Franklin, Decatur and Murray are considered dry counties, which means they don’t allow for the retail sales of liquor at all. Although consumers can legally drink there, alcohol sales are not permitted in these counties.
Can I Buy Alcohol in Georgia on Sunday?
Up until 2011, alcohol could not be purchased in Georgia on Sunday. However, in recent years, there have been major changes to this long-held practice. Currently, customers can visit a licensed package store or other retail location and buy alcohol on Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. When it comes to on-premise sales, the laws vary by county and even city. Some cities have enacted a brunch bill that allows bars and restaurants to sell alcohol starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Special Occasions in Georgia
There are some instances where special legislation extends the hours during which alcohol can be sold. bars and restaurants are permitted to sell alcohol until 2:30 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, July 3rd and 4th, and the Sunday before Memorial and Labor Day. On the other hand, many counties prohibit all alcohol sales on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.
Open Container Laws in Georgia
In Georgia, you can stroll along in public areas with a drink in hand thanks to the state’s open container policy. Though it’s important to remember that this law has strict regulations and completely prohibits alcohol consumption in motor vehicles. Here are some facts about the open container policy in Georgia:
- An open container is defined as any can, bottle, or other container that holds alcohol with the intention of consumption.
- Any container that has a broken seal or had some amount removed is in violation of the state’s open container law that prohibits any open container in the passenger area of a vehicle.
- The law applies to vehicles that are on the road or shoulder of a public highway.
- When enforcing the law, only the person who actually consumed the alcohol will be charged with a violation and receive a fine of up to $200.
- The law doesn’t apply to the passenger area of a vehicle that is designed to transport people or serve as a living area.
While Georgia’s alcohol laws can vary widely, many cities have made the move to relax some restrictions in order to support businesses during the pandemic. Other states, including Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Indiana have made similar moves and revised alcohol tax laws. Hopefully, these temporary and permanent changes will allow businesses to survive and overcome the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19.
How did COVID-19 impact alcohol laws in Georgia?
In response to COVID-19, Georgia began allowing to-go cocktails to be sold with entrees.
What time can I buy alcohol in Georgia?
Monday through Saturday you can purchase alcohol at retail locations from 7 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. When it comes to bars and restaurants, you can buy alcohol from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.
When can you buy alcohol in Georgia on Sunday?
You can buy alcohol from retail locations on Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Some cities also allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol starting at 11 a.m.
Is there an open container law in Georgia?
Open containers are legal in Georgia but there are restrictions.