ATHENS, Ga. - In an 8-1 vote Thursday evening, Athens-Clarke County Commissioners decided to rollback the last call countywide to 10 p.m.
Their current ordinance cuts off alcohol sales at 2 a.m. on weekdays.
"Alcohol does not give you COVID but it leads to behavior that can give you COVID," Commissioner Melissa Link explained.
She mentioned that “the science is crystal clear that bars are super-spreader environments, primarily because people do gather closely face to face and they’re inhibitions are down."
The goal for those in favor is to help mitigate the spread of the deadly virus.
"I would wish we were not in the situation but I would very much wish not in this healthcare crisis we are in," Mayor Kelly Girtz said during the special meeting.
Folks pouring the alcohol told FOX 5 this decision will be devastating for bars, but mostly restaurants.
"If you're just limiting them to food sales you're gonna cause mass layoffs, you may very well cause them to have to close their doors," Jarrrod Miller, the COO of several downtown bars explained.
He said businesses are still recovering after being closed for more than two months.
"This is going to affect thousands of people. A lot of whom work week to week, day-to-day. This is happening at the end of the month as well in the same week when the federal unemployment benefits are set to expire," he mentioned.
The three restaurants he works with don't open until 9 p.m.
"Our intention would be to open at 5 p.m. and at least get the four hours. However, there's nothing to say that the customers would come doing those hours," Miller detailed.
Employees we spoke with at other restaurants told us they are also concerned.
Miller said it feels like everyone is being punished because of some bad actors.
"You don't punish an entire industry for people who are outliers and that is what we feel is taking place."
Commissioner Patrick Davenport was the only person who voted against changing the ordinance.
"It breaks my heart to the fact that the people who were following CDC guidelines are being punished because of one or two bars," the Commissioner explained.
Miller told us business owners are now planning to take legal action.
"The bar owners are prepared. We have secured legal counsel and we will be filing an immediate injunction and filing suit immediately," he detailed.
According to Mayor Girtz, restaurants will be allowed to serve food past 10 p.m.
He said the changes take effect on Friday.