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The Villages
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Applebee’s says closing bar early would cost restaurant $250,000 in revenue

A representative of Applebee’s in The Villages said a law forcing their bar to close earlier would cost the restaurant about $250,000 in annual revenue.

Chris Prus, area director for Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida LLC which operates the restaurant on Bichara Boulevard, made a plea Monday night before the Lady Lake Commission, asking that officials reconsider a proposed ordinance that would force restaurants to cut off liquor sales up to two hours earlier.

Commissioners have considered an ordinance that would cut off liquor sales as early as midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The consideration of the change has been prompted by a long list of late night calls to police in recent months. Notably, a man was shot and killed in the wee hours March 7 at Applebee’s.

A man was shot and killed in March at Applebee’s in The Villages.

Currently, the bars can continue to pour liquor until 2 a.m. The three restaurants that would be impacted are Margarita Republic, Miller’s Ale House and Applebee’s.

The Applebee’s representative said that late nighters at Applebee’s are generally people who work in other restaurants.

“Honestly our late-night people are off-duty restaurant employees, servers and bartenders. They need a place to unwind. They have a couple drinks, maybe some appetizers,” Prus said.

They come to Lady Lake because Sumter County and Wildwood cut off liquor sales earlier.

He said 76 percent of people coming in during those late night hours order alcohol. The bottom line is the earlier cutoff would be a major hit to the restaurant and its employees.

“It’s going to affect our employees. If we shut down two hours early, it’s going to cost them money,” Prus said.

Chris McHugh of Miller’s Ale House agreed with Prus’ assessment of the impact of the change in hours for serving liquor.

“We are a sports bar. There are so many people who come in to watch a game. A lot of west coast games,” he said.

Commissioner Ed Freeman, who initially voted in support of the effort to enact an earlier liquor cutoff, said he is concerned about “creating a dramatic financial impact on these restaurants.” He urged his fellow commissioners to take more time to consider the potential economic impact on the restaurants.

The Applebee’s and Miller Ale House representatives said they are in favor of potentially hiring security, including off-duty police officers, and even the possibility of installing metal detectors to curb problems.

Commissioners agreed to sit down in a workshop session to discuss the issue at a future date.

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