SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Blue laws preventing Savannah bars from opening on Sundays has been shelved this weekend to give the city's watering holes a chance to fill their cash registers with extra St. Patrick's Day green.
The March 17 holiday, by far Savannah's most lucrative tourist attraction, falls at the beginning of the workweek this year. And while the city's 190-year-old St. Patrick's Day parade will commence on the official date Monday, hotels and other businesses are cashing in on a full four days of celebrating that kicked off Friday.
Typically that would leave bars high and dry because of state and local laws that let restaurants pour drinks on Sunday but not pubs and lounges that make most of their revenues selling booze. The state Legislature and Savannah City Council changed that this year after a push by local bar owner Bonnie Walden.
"I'd have been crushed if I hadn't gotten to open," said Walden, who owns Bay Street Blues, a small bar located on the St. Patrick's Day parade route and just a block from the downtown riverfront that's typically clogged with gaudy green revelers. "I kept thinking about last call on Saturday night and people saying, 'We'll see you tomorrow,' and having to tell them, no, we won't be open."
Gov. Nathan Deal, a teetotaler who's previously OKed relaxing Sunday liquor laws as long as local governments get the final say, signed Thursday a waiver allowing Savannah bars to open from 12:30 p.m. until midnight on Sundays that fall on or adjacent to St. Patrick's Day — specifically between March 16 and 18. City councilman approved a corresponding local ordinance weeks in advance.
Walden didn't wait for the last-minute final approval. She went ahead and scheduled eight employees to work Sunday and ordered extra beer — 15 kegs plus 25 cases — to see her through the day. Walden estimates the extra day of St. Patrick's sales will earn her up to $15,000 in revenue.
"It is by far the biggest and best event financially," Walden said. "People spend a lot of money coming to Savannah."
Savannah has been celebrating St. Patrick's Day since 1824, a time when thousands of Irish immigrants were flocking to the Georgia coast. Despite the holiday's religious roots as a celebration of the priest who introduced Christianity to Ireland, St. Patrick's Day and Sundays have long had a somewhat uneasy relationship in Savannah. Whenever March 17 falls on Sunday, St. Patrick's Day parade organizers in Savannah hold their procession Saturday.
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