COLUMBIA — Restaurants and liquor stores could be allowed to sell alcohol on Sunday if an expected ordinance goes forward to place the question before voters this fall.
North Augusta City Council is planning to introduce the ordinance in July to place the referendum on the ballot for the Nov. 6 presidential election.
North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones said he instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance for restaurants and retail stores to be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays but said there is mixed support for it on the council.
Jones said the original request from the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce was for restaurants and retail venues.
“I believe that’s what the majority will approve,” Jones said of the council, adding that the city is bound by law to having a referendum only every four years.
“The whole law is messed up,” he added. “You should be able to vote on restaurants and convenience stores independently of one another.”
Business and local government leaders had hoped residents would be able to decide on the Sunday sales prohibition by November, when voter turnout will be at its highest, rather than having to wait until April of next year. Without the newly signed law, the city would have been forced to wait.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill, H. 5098, on Monday.
Nevertheless, sponsor Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, said that he opposes the inclusion of retail establishments and that discussions with local leaders had centered on easing restrictions for restaurants only.
He said last month he doubts the community will vote for opening liquor stores on Sunday.
Business advocates have eyed the loosened restrictions as a way to keep up with Aiken and Augusta.
The legislation worried the Palmetto Family, a Columbia-based nonprofit that promotes traditional, conservative social values. Some within the liquor store industry are worried the extra day they must stay open will not yield additional business, but will instead dilute the existing commerce across additional operating hours.