South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Booze Restrictions Do Not Violate Equal Protection
Description Georgia high court held that state laws restricting alcohol sales to only certain businesses on Sunday did not violate the equal protection rights of businesses not allowed to sell alcohol on that day because the state had a rational basis for the regulations.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Equal Protection; Rational Basis Test; Alcohol Regulations
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Heretic is a bar in Atlanta that under Georgia law, is not allowed to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday. State law provides that by local option, there are exceptions to the alcohol ban on Sunday for stadiums and “eating establishments” that derive at least half of their gross sales from the sale of meals. Heretic, a bar, earns little income from food sales, so it cannot sell alcohol on Sunday unlike its eating establishment competitors. Heretic’s owner argued that the law was unconstitutional. The trial court held for Heretic and issued an injunction barring enforcement of the statute.

Reversed. A party challenging a legislative classification as a violation of equal protection guarantees of the Constitution has the responsibility of convincing the court that the classification has no rational basis. The state has a rational basis for the challenged regulatory scheme. It is intended to enhance the recreational atmosphere of Sunday. The legislature could also conclude that the health and safety risks posed by bars were more significant than those posed by restaurants.

Citation State of Georgia v. Heretic, Inc., --- S.E.2d --- (2003 WL 22281575, Sup. Ct., Ga., 2003)

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