Jacksonville, FL - Just a few weeks ago, Clay County voters decided to extend the hours alcohol could be sold on Sunday.
That change took effect this past Sunday, and businesses are already bracing for the boost they’re expecting.
“From now until next year, everybody in Clay County is gunna see an increase in sales all the way across the board,” says Mellow Mushroom General Manager Ray Wilmetti.
Wilmetti says there were at least 50 more customers around 11 AM than they generally have, and it was the biggest Sunday crowd he has seen.
“Right off the bat they were able to enjoy a nice cold beer and start watching football games,” he says.
The law up until this Sunday had only allowed alcohol sales between 2 PM and midnight on Sunday. Now, the sale is allowed between 7 AM and 2 AM Monday.
While many restaurants are not open early enough to benefit from the very early hours, they are happy to be able to sell earlier than before.
“We were doing $2 bloody Mary’s and $2 mimosas,” says Whitey’s Fish Camp owner Billy Ham.
Ham says his customers have always been interested in an early afternoon drink, especially during football season. He didn’t notice a huge rush this Sunday, but expects that to pick up more with the bigger sporting seasons. With that sale now an option, the customers are not the only people who benefit.
“Our servers have a chance to make more money because their ticket average is higher, we created another shift because we now need a bartender earlier,” he says.
Ultimately, the county is hoping this shapes up to be a one million dollar decision. Leslie Dougher, with the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, says that’s the amount of extra tax revenue they expect to bring in this year because of the change.
And it’s not just revenue. Dougher wants Clay County to become a destination for things like large golf events, but the old law was deterring organizers from committing.
“People like that, that wanna come in to the area, were literally turning us away because of that one factor,” she says.
The Golf Club at Fleming Island General Manager Troy Albers says the change won’t necessarily give them a competitive edge with bringing in these bigger events, but will at least put them on a level playing field with the surrounding counties. He says the biggest impact they will really see is the day-to-day golfers who just want to enjoy a drink with their game.
Many Clay County businesses are happy to keep all that money on sales inside county lines, instead of seeing residents head to surrounding neighborhoods for a drink on Sunday. They expect business to slowly continue to climb, and ultimately celebrate a big gain once the law is well known and established.
The start to the law was not without its problems, however. Dougher says many consumers were under the impression the new law didn’t kick in until the new year- so that could be part of the reason for the slow start in some restaurants. Large scale retailers and chains are also having some problems pop up. Dougher says one chain hadn’t properly updated their software to reflect the new law, and one resident was actually turned away Sunday because the registers didn’t recognize that the sale could be done.