Merchants begin Sunday alcohol sales in North Augusta

At Publix in North Au­gus­ta, refrigerator cases stocked with beer and wine were once dark on Sundays. A new law allowing Sunday sales has turned the light on for the store and its customers.

Five North Augusta grocery and convenience stores have acquired licenses for selling beer and wine for off-premise consumption on Sun­days since a city referendum won 68 percent approval in November. Two Kang­­aroo Express locations, Kro­ger and Bi-Lo also have licenses, and Ruby Tuesday can sell alcoholic drinks on Sunday.

Convenience for shoppers played a large role in Publix applying for the permit, said Brenda Reid, a Publix regional spokeswoman. Sunday was already one of the busiest days, she said.

“Over time, customers began asking us about purchasing alcohol on Sundays,” Reid said. “We didn’t anticipate an increase in the number of customers.”

Glynn Jenkins, a spokesman for The Kroger Co., said shoppers showed they wanted the right to buy alcohol on Sundays by passing the referendum and in their feedback to the store.

“While it’s too early to speculate on the long-term impact, we have routinely heard from customers who are favorable and pleased to purchase beer and wine on Sun­day,” he said.

Sunday alcohol sales began at Kroger on Dec. 16 and at Publix on Dec. 23. Li­cense applications were available in early to mid-December.

Publix rolled out Sunday sales at Georgia stores over the past year after a change in state law let individual municipalities decide whether to allow Sunday sales. Reid said customers reacted slowly to the change and stores did not experience a surge of customers. The North Augusta store also had a smooth transition, she said.

North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones said Sunday sales are expected to help the city remain competitive in attracting new restaurants.

“When the surrounding jurisdictions allow sales, it becomes an impediment,” Jones said. “If your rules are more restrictive, you’re at a competitive disadvantage.”

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