Last Weekend for Operation Thunder; Bar Owners Say Sales Have Dr - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Last Weekend for Operation Thunder; Bar Owners Say Sales Have Dropped

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Augusta, GA -

This is Richmond County's last weekend to crack down on drunk drivers – as part of Operation Thunder. Deputies say they'll be out in full-force tonight with check points and patrol cars.

While police say the program has reduced deaths on the road, bar owners say it's impacted their sales.

Over the past 3 months, Operation Thunder has resulted in hundreds of citations - around 200 seat belt violators, more than 300 child seat citations, hundreds of DUIs and drivers with an expired license.

So while cops are happy about with the progress, bartenders say they've seen sales drop because of the heavy patrols.

At the end of the work week, you and your buddies may enjoy a few drinks.  But bartenders say sales have dropped over the last few months because of heavy police patrols.

"A lot less fresh faces – they may only come in 2 nights a week. Definitely the weekends have taken a drastic turn for the worst," said Bar West General Manager, Andrew Chad.

"As a bar tender you don't get a salary by any means, so if I don't have a building full of people, it's hard for me to make money," said David Williamson.

Bartenders say the drop is because of Operation Thunder – a campaign to crack down on dangerous drivers.

 "It has scared the casual drinker. People are scared to have a martini with dinner or couple of beers after a movie," said Chad.

"You can tell our regulars would rather just stay home," said Williamson.

Police have handed out hundreds of citations for for people not wearing seatbelts, speeders, and those who've had too much to drink.

"In terms of safety, we have gone from 4 deaths per month to 1 death per month on our roadways," said Lewis Blanchard.

But with more cops patrolling the streets, bar owners say it's hurt their traffic.

"You are talking about on average 30% decrease across the board," said Chad.

"We pulled the sales from the department that monitor alcohol sales in Richmond County. The last 3 months there has never been a decline, so as far as sales being down, it's not about sales," said Blanchard.

"That's less tax revenue. We don't have sales so its less money for the county and hurts the economy when it's already struggling," said Chad.

"I'd like people to go out and grab a cab, or not drink too heavily," said Chad.

Operation Thunder is a joint effort between the Sheriff's Office, Highway Patrol and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

Operation Thunder continues through Saturday night and is funded through the state.


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