Ringing cash registers at restaurants with alcohol licenses in Columbia County are translating into money in the bank for government coffers.
So far this year, the county is on pace to exceed the record alcohol sales-tax revenue generated by restaurants and distributors in 2005, according to records provided by the county.
Last year, the restaurants and distributors generated $774,761.83 in alcohol sales-tax revenue, which is an average of about $64,500 per month, according to county records. As of last month, alcohol sales generated $606,444.65 in tax revenue, or just more than $86,600 per month.
In July, the county had its highest month of revenue with nearly $90,600 added to its coffers.
The largest contributors to alcohol sales-tax revenues are alcohol distributors AB Beverage, Beverage South and United Distributors, stated county code compliance officer Dana Allen in an e-mail.
The largest contributors among restaurants include: Applebee's on North Belair Road in Evans; Rhinehart's Oyster Bar, also on North Belair Road; and a near-tie between French Market Grille West on Furys Ferry Road in Martinez, Monterrey Mexican restaurants in Evans and Martinez, and Salsa's on Bobby Jones Expressway in Martinez.
Specific sales-tax revenues generated by each distributor or restaurant were not immediately available.
Though these companies were responsible for the majority of revenue, new restaurants are responsible for the rapid increase in revenue, Allen said. The number of alcohol licenses granted for the year and the largest contributor to revenues among new businesses also was not immediately available.
Amy Bailey, a co-owner of Rhinehart's, said her alcohol sales started out sluggish when the North Belair Road location opened in May last year. Since this spring, however, sales of beer and wine have increased, along with everything else, she said.
"(Food) sales were climbing, but it didn't occur to me that so were the alcohol (sales)," she said, adding that alcohol sales make up about 20 percent of her business at both Rhinehart's locations.
Bailey said heavy alcohol consumption by customers at the North Belair Road location is rare, but more customers are choosing to enjoy an adult beverage with their meal.
"Columbia County is very moderate, but more and more people are saying 'Maybe I'll have a glass of wine,'" Bailey said.
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