This weekend was the first where Alabama bars and restaurants have been able to serve alcohol past 11 p.m., with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board lifting restrictions earlier this week.
At area watering holes like the Lone Goose Saloon, a return to regular service hours brought in more business this weekend -- something area restaurants and bars have been waiting for.
“The first weekend’s been great,” Michael Groce, manager of the Lone Goose Saloon, said. “We're all pretty excited about it.”
After months of ups and downs, local restaurants and bars are starting to see signs of relief. Several spots around Huntsville said this weekend was a benchmark on the road to recovery -- as loosened restrictions on hours of alcohol service have provided a boost to numbers.
Groce said Sunday that many of the bar's regular customers are restaurant or service industry members, a group that was significantly impacted by the cutoff times.
“I just saw somebody last night and they were talking about how they hadn't been out since March and, you know, they finally got out last night,” Groce explained.
Across town at the Sportspage Lounge, Mike Roberts, a co-0wner, also noted the service industry crowd as a big factor in the weekend's improved numbers.
“I heard several people say last week, ‘It sure is nice for it not to be last call’ -- early, around 11:15, or so,” Roberts said. “It sure is nice not to have to finish your drink and leave.”
Roberts said there has definitely been an immediate impact -- potentially a 15% increase over the past week -- but said it will take time to truly get a feel of where they stand now. Still, he said it's definitely a step in the right direction.
"By May, we weren't sure if we were gonna make it or not,” he said. “So I think all of us, I think every single bar and restaurant in this city and every employee at them, felt the same sense of urgency for something to give.”
Both Roberts and Groce said they feel the next step is getting back to full capacity -- from the current 50% -- and easing restrictions on social distancing. They made a point to remind customers that those restrictions are still in place.