Athens resolves bar hours lawsuit, ‘last call’ moved several hours early

ATHENS, Ga. — Athens-Clarke County and several bars have agreed to settle a lawsuit that would have moved “last call” to 10 p.m.

According to attorneys for several bars and restaurants, the new “last call” will be at 11:30 p.m. and bars will have to clear people inside by midnight.

It was last month when the county passed an ordinance that would have forced bars to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. Bars and restaurants in the area complained the ordinance would have significantly hurt their business.

[Athens judge pauses ordinance that would have banned alcohol sales after 10 p.m.]

After several bars and restaurants came together to fight the ordinance, a judge paused the ordinance. In the last 24 hours, the county commission and the plaintiffs agreed on the new rules.

“We can’t close up the town and draw up a draw bridge or go back into our shell,” said attorney Mo Whiltshire. “We’ve got to have business activity or all the things that make Athens Athens.”

The new times will remain in effect until the expiration of Gov. Kemp’s emergency order.

The lawsuit was approved by the county commission at 9:15 a.m. but not without some commissioners lashing out at the bar owners.

“Folks need to know the risk they are taking and these people who have brought this suit, who have refused to take any measures to curb this spread, they do have blood on their hands,” said Commissioner Melissa Link.

Previous “last call” times at Athens bars is 2 a.m. on weekdays, 1:55 a.m. on Saturdays and midnight on Sundays.

They also agreed that license fees for 2021 and 2022 will be reduced $1,500 for liquor and $450 for wine and beer.

Athens-Clark County will also waive penalties and interest for late payment of “excise taxes for as long as the Judicial Emergency Order and any extension thereof remains in place.”

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