City Council president-turned-Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington was expected to strike down the state's Sunday bar-closing law in a Tuesday ruling in favor of a dozen local gay bars that had challenged the 40-year-old rule.
The lawsuit, Heretic v. Georgia, charged that because the law had been amended over the years to exclude hotel bars, bowling alleys, sports venues and special events, it unfairly targets bars and restaurants which derive the majority of their revenue from drink sales.
"The state has granted so many exceptions to the Sunday blue laws that the statute violated our equal-protection rights," explains Michael Clutter, an attorney who left behind his legal practice to open Bulldogs, a Midtown bar on Peachtree Street. "There's no rational basis for discriminating against one group and not the other."
Clutter, who helped argue the case before Arrington, says he expects the state attorney general's office to appeal the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. In the meantime, bars likely will remain closed on Sunday while the case works its way through the legal system.
"This ruling is nice, but it's really just a first step," Clutter says.
Although Arrington's decision doesn't address the statewide ban on Sunday alcohol sales by package stores and supermarkets, if upheld, it could provide a solid foundation for those businesses to challenge the state in a separate case, Clutter says.
"I don't know of any compelling public-policy reason to prohibit alcohol sales on Sunday," he says.