Sunday retail alcohol sales possible April 1 in Augusta

Sunday package sales of alcoholic beverages are possible in Augusta as soon as April 1.

On Monday, the Augusta Commission’s Public Service Committee voted 4-0 on a last-minute agenda addition to extend existing sales licenses to Sunday, rather than requiring a separate permit or additional fee for businesses that want to sell on Sundays.

Voters approved a referendum on the topic last week, making Augusta-Richmond County the largest jurisdiction in the area to allow Sunday retail alcohol sales. Grovetown voters approved a Sunday sales referendum in November. The city of Aiken holds a South Carolina permit for retail beer and wine sales on Sunday.

“We just went up on the fees recently,” said District 1 Commissioner Matt Aitken, who voted for the measure.

“It’s most appropriate to just let them change hours,” said District 2 Commissioner Corey Johnson, who is the chairman of the committee.

The item needs full commission approval to move forward. The next regularly scheduled commission meeting is March 20.

In other business, the Public Service Committee referred a set of taxicab rate increases and other new charges to a later committee meeting.

Pete Rodriguez, the owner of Checker Cab in Augusta, spoke to a greater need for regulation in the cab business, while a couple of independent drivers described the challenges they face meeting city requirements.

Among the increases cabbies requested are a $100 cab cleanup fee, surcharges if gas prices go above a certain point and an additional $4 charge for trips that start and remain in Columbia County.

For Masters Week, the drivers requested higher rates for trips to and from Augusta Regional Airport and Augusta National Golf Club.

According to the proposal, for $65, riders can get from the golf course to the airport. A trip from Augusta National to downtown Augusta would be $30.

The fees haven’t changed since 2008, said Licensing Director Rob Sherman.
Sheriff’s Cpl. Barry Morrison, who inspects taxicabs before they are licensed, questioned whether a $100 charge for cleanup was excessive. The current fee is $50.

Rodriguez said a sick soldier could “put you out of commission for a few hours.”

The city has 17 cab companies and 91 taxis in operation, Morrison said.

Also approved during Monday’s committee meetings:

• For City Administrator Fred Russell to meet with Hephzibah officials about possibly turning the Jesse Carroll Community Center, owned by Augusta, over to Hephzibah.

• To allocate money for the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department to conduct a study of pay disparities among firefighters of the same rank.

• At District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett’s urging, to revisit a federal compliance program prepared by general counsel Andrew MacKenzie for Augusta Public Transit despite the availability of a “template” nearly guaranteed to meet federal standards.

The Administrative Services Committee did not approve the hiring of three full-time “term temporary appointments” to assist in relocation of approximately 110 families from the Hyde Park neighborhood, which is scheduled to become a detention pond.

The positions, to be paid with sales tax money, will be presented to the full commission for approval.

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