Augusta voters approve Sunday alcohol sales

Mark Reeves casts his ballot at Julian Smith Casino. Turnout in Richmond County on Tuesday was about 20 percent, according to elections officials.

 

Fewer than 12,000 voters turned out in favor of Sunday package alcohol sales Tuesday, but that was enough to carry the day. Of the 20,386 votes cast, 11,802 or about 58 percent, voted to approve the measure.

Just over 20 percent of Richmond County’s 101,000 registered voters went to the polls.

Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said he expected voters would approve the Sunday sales referendum, but not by an overwhelming margin.

“No matter where you go in the county, for every 10 people you poll, six will be for it and four against,” said Bowles, recalling that a similar measure passed in 1992 when he lived in Charleston, S.C. “I think the people finally had the option to make a choice.”

The passage allows Sunday package sales beginning March 31, but Augusta officials haven’t determined whether an additional license will be required. If the Augusta Commission does decide to require an additional permit, applicants would have to be approved by the commission, and the city’s planning and development office would have to ensure businesses without the special permits aren’t selling alcohol illegally, Augusta Licensing Director Rob Sherman said.

Some expect the availability of alcohol on Sundays will draw shoppers to Au­gusta from other counties. Grovetown approved Sunday sales in November, but the rest of Columbia County won’t vote on the measure until July.

Brittany Johnston, who cast her ballot at Julian Smith Casino, was among those who voted in favor of Sunday sales.

“Restaurants can serve alcohol on Sundays, so consuming a beverage should be fine at your home,” she said. “I hope it will bring in enough money to not raise my property taxes.”

Bowles said he didn’t expect additional revenue for Augusta from Sunday sales.

“I see it as a convenience for residents and for visitors that come to Augusta,” he said.

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