Tifton Gazette

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December 1, 2009

Tifton restaurant owner loses Sonny’s franchise

TIFTON — Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q on U.S. Highway 82 West is now The Smokehouse Restaurant because local franchise owner Bill Davis refused to sell beer, wine or liquor in the “family restaurant.” Also, the Sonny’s corporation didn’t believe it was appropriate for employees there to wear “I Pledge...I Pray” T-shirts at work.

Rather than change his operation, Davis said Tuesday he decided to “stand up for God.” He said he has nothing against the Sonny’s organization and can’t understand why his decision has brought him so much attention.

“All I did was say I was standing up for God,” Davis said. “This should be a normal everyday thing. This should not be the event it has become.”

Davis said the company has been “super nice” over the 22 years he’s owned the Sonny’s Restaurant franchise in Tifton.

“They are very professional people and they have been very helpful, and they did a world of good for us and helped us build what we have today,” Davis said.

Davis said his 20-year license for his Sonny’s franchise expired two years ago. He drove to Orlando to the Sonny’s headquarters in February 2008 to meet with officials there; he said the company offered a new agreement with the stipulation that he sell beer, wine and liquor drinks in the restaurant.

“I just told them we didn’t want to,” Davis said. “They didn’t understand because they acted like that was the future of restaurants.”

The Sonny’s president, according to Davis, backed off the mandate that the Tifton restaurant sell liquor and offered Davis a two-year contract extension to decide if he would sell wine and beer. The president also told Davis that he might want to consider selling the restaurant, closing it or turning it into another business.

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