Sunday alcohol sales have passed handily in 105 Georgia jurisdictions, including Savannah, Gainesville, Macon and Grovetown, which currently is the only city on the Georgia side of metro Augusta to permit the sales.
Until this year, Augusta-area residents had only one option – inside the city of Aiken, which holds a South Carolina permit for retail beer and wine sales on Sundays – if they sought package alcohol on a Sunday.
According to Georgia Food Industry Association, which is keeping tabs on Sunday sales referenda, 38 other Georgia jurisdictions have the measure on Tuesday’s presidential primary ballot.
The referendum’s passage rate has been high, at 83 percent where voters have been asked. But it hasn’t been automatic, with voters in Albany, Americus and Brunswick – although not surrounding Glynn County – defeating the sales in November elections.
No other metro Augusta cities or counties have the question on Tuesday’s ballot. Columbia County won’t vote on Sunday sales until July 31, when voters across the region also will be asked to approve a regional transportation sales tax and county commissioner term limits. Columbia County officials placed Sunday sales on the July general primary ballot to ensure “good turnout,” County Administrator Scott Johnson said.
The Augusta Commission opted against holding a special election just for Sunday sales and instead placed it with the closest scheduled countywide election – Tuesday, the date of the Georgia Republican Presidential Preference Primary and a referendum on Richmond County Board of Education’s renewal of a 1-cent sales tax for school capital projects.
There has been very little, if any, campaigning for or against the measure. Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce has adopted no position on Sunday sales, Director Sue Parr said.
Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said she expects turnout to be low Tuesday, around 25 percent, and elections observer Dave Barbee, who chairs the 10th District Republican party, said he expects highest turnout among those casting ballots in the Republican primary.
Augusta’s referendum, if approved, will also grant retailers in Blythe and Hephzibah the opportunity to sell beer, wine and liquor on Sundays.