Sure, the sight of beer trucks pulling up outside gas stations in Somerset has been a frequent occurrence over the last few weeks, as the first sales of alcohol have trickled in following the June option election.
But what about the restaurants?
Not many already-existing casual dining restaurants in town even put in for licenses to serve alcohol by the drink. An unlimited number could, however, as licenses of that time are not among the “quota” licenses, or ones limited to a certain number by the state.
Five major casual dining restaurants along the U.S. 27 strip put in for licenses: El Charro, Casa Grande, Ruby Tuesday, and Tumbleweed.
Other eateries include the Briar Bowl bowling alley and in downtown Somerset, J. Gumbo’s, sort of a fast-food approach to a Cajun restaurant.
Of the casual dining restaurants on the highway, only El Charro is already serving alcohol. The Mexican cuisine restaurant got its Restaurant Liquor by the Drink license last Friday, and started serving last weekend, though it didn’t have quite a full supply in stock yet.
Now, according to owner Domingo Porron, they do — and they’re ready to sell, sell, sell.
“Most (people) right now don’t really know we have liquor right now,” said Porron. “When I get the license, I can get (the alcohol) delivered by Sunday ... sometimes it takes 24 hours to settle an account. Right now, we’ve got everything.”
That includes a bar area in the back of the restaurant, located in the Grand Central Place shopping center, that Porron hopes can turn out to be a good business investment.
“I think very good,” said Porron when asked how selling alcohol might help his business. He noted that people can buy beer at gas stations too, which might limit the impact sales at his restaurant would have slightly, but “it will help a little bit.”
David Zimmerman, manager at Sonny’s Real-Pit Bar-B-Q, said that his restaurant is almost there.
“We’ve already got the licenses and things, now we’re just finishing up,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go soon.”
That’s likely within about a week, he noted.
Zimmerman said that as far as the effect on business, “We’re already pretty busy without (alcohol), but I’m sure it will boost things at first.”
There’s been a bar in the front of the restaurant ever since the new facility was built a few years ago, as if it was waiting for alcohol sales to be made available to Somerset, which happened after a June 26 vote by Somerset citizens. Zimmerman said that wasn’t necessarily the plan, however.
“The floor plan comes from our stores in Florida, and they serve alcohol in the stores down there,” he said. “We’ve just used it as a lunch counter and kept the design.”
Now, he said, it could serve as a combination of both a lunch counter and a ready-to-go bar.
A call to Casa Grande Mexican restaurant revealed that it also is likely to start serving within a couple of weeks.
Other eateries might have a slightly longer wait. Chip Weddle, a manager at the local Ruby Tuesday American casual cuisine restaurant, said that his restaurant expects to have everything lined up to sell at the end of October.
Jennifer Quillen, a manager at Tumbleweed Southwest Grill Tex-Mex restaurant in the Somerset Mall, is less sure about dates.
“We haven’t heard anything yet,” she said. “We’re anxiously awaiting (word on when the restaurant have a license). We’re looking forward to it.”
She noted that the Somerset restaurant was believed to be the only store in the chain that wasn’t serving alcohol at this point. Tumbleweed is based in Louisville, Ky., and now operates around 60 locations in several different Midwestern states.