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US. New ‘Sonic’ Will Sell Beer and Wine

Want a beer with that burger? Sonic Drive-In in Homestead, Florida will soon become the first of the chain's 3,500 restaurants to offer beer and wine along with bacon cheeseburgers, chili dogs and cherry limeades. City Council members on Wednesday gave the chain approval to serve alcohol at the restaurant, located at 2425 NE Eighth St. in Homestead.

It's not clear exactly when the restaurant will start serving brewskies and burgundy. Corporate officials said they don't plan on offering alcohol at any other locations, although the Homestead Sonic is one of the chain's first locations in Miami-Dade County.

Since it opened earlier this month, Homestead's Sonic has been different. Sure, there are the typical drive-in stalls and carhops on roller skates that Sonic is known for. But this restaurant also features a beach-themed outdoor seating area with umbrellas and white sand, and the "o" in Sonic's logo is replaced by a red-and-blue beach ball. There are also several flat screen TVs hanging outside.

"We're only planning on doing this in the Miami market, so we thought, "Let's really try to make it something special,'" said Drew Ritger, Sonic's vice president of business analysis and development.

Though the restaurant is known for its drive in, alcohol will only be served on the patio area. Servers will receive special training and quarterly inspections, Johnny Winton, one of the franchise owners, told council members Wednesday night.

"We think its irresponsible to have someone drive up and we hand a beer out the window," Winton said. "That doesn't make sense at all. We're trying to have a family-friendly atmosphere out on that patio."

In Florida, it's illegal to have an open alcoholic beverage in a car, even if it's parked.

Winton, a former Miami city commissioner, was removed from office in 2006 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist after Winton was arrested at Miami International Aiport. Police said Winton had become "loud and abusive" with American Airlines staff after his flight was canceled, then told police "go f--- yourselves" before finally physically striking the arresting officers.

In 2007, Winton agreed to a plea deal that called for charges of felony battery on a police officer to be dropped, and he was convicted only on misdemeanor battery and disorderly intoxication charges. He received two years' probation.

Richard Turner, a spokesman for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said it isn't such a stretch for a quick-serve establishment such as Sonic's to serve beer and wine. Restaurants featuring speciality burgers and beers are trendy now, he said. And, with a rough economy and stiff competition, restaurants have to try harder than ever to attract diners.

"They're trying so much to stay in business and find new things for customers," Turner said. "What's amazing about the American consumer is their needs are always changing."

The Miami Herald

28 Jun. 2011

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