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Savannah will allow bars to sell alcohol past midnight on New Year's Eve

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The City of Savannah has decided to let bars who do not have a Sunday liquor license sell alcohol on New Year's Eve, which falls on a Sunday this year. (Credit: Josie Gregory)

The City of Savannah has decided to let bars who do not have a Sunday liquor license sell alcohol on New Year's Eve, which falls on a Sunday this year.

New Year's Eve is the second-most celebrated holiday in Savannah behind St. Patrick's Day. Many downtown bars who do not have Sunday liquor licenses fought the city for months to allow them to sell alcohol on the holiday.

"In the state of Georgia, in order to open on Sunday, you must sell 51 percent food, and for a bar that even has a kitchen, it's almost an impossibility to do that," Bonnie Walden, owner of Bay Street Blues, said.

She said the bar could bring in more than $1,000 on that one night.

"To miss a New Year's Eve would be, not only financially devastating, but emotionally devastating," she said.

However, she, along with other bar owners, are celebrating a victory.

Savannah leaders decided to allow these bars to not only open on Sunday to sell alcohol, but to stay up and keep serving drinks until 2 a.m.

A few years ago, when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Monday, the city and state decided on the exception. Then, they decided to change the rule and allow cities to issue an exception to the Sunday alcohol sales rule one day a year.

There will be an increased police presence on New Year's Eve, and Walden said allowing the bars to be open may actually cut down on crime.

"The patrons can go to their favorite watering holes and stay there all night and enjoy the party, and not be wandering around the streets thinking 'where can we go next, what's open,'" she said.

Walden is already planning special drinks and decorations for the holiday.

Walden said the 51 percent rule is very outdated and he hopes the rule will come to a public vote in the future to change it.