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Have a very sober New Year's Eve

'Blue laws' to blame for liquor-free midnight

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Consider it the seven-year curse for partiers.

If you choose to ring in the New Year at your favorite bar or nightclub, don't expect to touch a drop of champagne -- or anything else alcoholic -- until after the stroke of midnight. That's because, since New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday this year, clubs cannot serve alcohol until 12:01 a.m. Monday.

For that, you can thank Georgia's old-fashioned "blue laws."

"There really isn't anything we can do about state law," explains Atlanta Councilwoman Anne Fauver, who oversaw an extensive rewrite of the city's alcohol code a couple of years ago. When she first realized that New Year's Eve will be on a Sunday this year, Fauver asked city attorneys if there were any way City Council could waive the rules for one night.

The short answer was no.

Under long-standing state law, the only businesses that can serve alcohol on Sunday are restaurants, convention centers and catering facilities; large public venues such as Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome; and at so-called special entertainment districts, of which Underground Atlanta is the only one in Georgia.

The last time New Year's Eve fell on a Sunday was in 2000. "As I recall, back then we figured it'd be easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission, but in this political climate, we're not planning to take any risks," says Michael Krohngold, owner of Tongue & Groove in Buckhead. This year, he says, he'll encourage early drinkers at his Jackrabbit Lounge restaurant to walk a few doors down to his nightclub for the post-midnight celebration.

Mike Katz, owner of Midtown's Halo, says he'll likely keep his doors shut this New Year's Eve since the establishment will have to stop pouring at 2:30 a.m. under city law. "If I can only stay open two-and-a-half hours that night, I'm not going to bother," Katz says.

That's not to say that no Atlanta night spots are promoting New Year's Eve events. Some, such as Midtown's Vinyl and the Masquerade, have licenses that allow them to serve on Sunday. But others are rethinking their plans, including Fever on Cheshire Bridge Road, which has announced a bash featuring Kevin Dillon of HBO's "Entourage." Says Tucker Kroll, the club's promotions director: "We're still looking at our options."

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