New bill to fix beer loophole
Law currently prevents new stadium from Sunday sales

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett Braves fans don't have to worry about the peanuts and cracker jacks, but a beer at the ballgame could be an issue on Sundays.

A local lawmaker proposed a bill this week to close a loophole in state law giving only cities the power to grant Sunday liquor sales at a stadium.

"I think it's American tradition. If you go to a ballpark and want to drink a beer, you ought to be able to get one," said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, whose district includes the stadium's location on Buford Drive - north of Lawrenceville in unincorporated Gwinnett County.

"There's going to be restaurants and strip shopping centers around it (selling alcohol) on Sunday, so I don't see a problem with selling it in there," Unterman said, referring to plans for a mixed-use center filled with shops, lofts and eateries surrounding the stadium.

David O'Kelley, who is in charge of business licenses for the county, said the county's arena outside Duluth never had to worry about the snag because the entire Gwinnett Center complex produces more than 50 percent of its revenues through food.

Studies show that baseball complexes typically sell about 35 percent food with the rest going to alcohol and soft drinks, he said.

"We're already allowed to let the LongHorns of the world to allow sales on Sundays," he said. "We're just trying to level the playing field out."

While Braves officials were not available for comment Friday, Preston Williams, the county's liaison on the project, said he thinks the law change is important.

"It's got to happen. You're not going to have baseball where you can't have beer and hot dogs and peanuts," Williams said.

For Todd White, a Lawrenceville resident who said he plans to buy season tickets to the Gwinnett Braves, who are scheduled to begin playing in April 2009, the idea makes sense.

"I don't see why they would stop it," he said of Sunday sales. "I think it's just part of the whole game experience for some."

Unterman said she did not believe the bill would be tied up in a state debate over allowing package stores and grocery stores to sell alcohol on Sundays. She said the bill would be "engrossed," which means amendments on the package store sales could not be added to it.

"It would be to the detriment of the state if it is defeated," she said. "I don't want to jeopardize it."

As for the upcoming $40 million stadium construction, Williams said designers are meeting often to decide on the blueprints and aesthetics. Decisions could be reached in the next month. In the meantime, regional planners are reviewing the stadium and mixed-use project.