NORTH AUGUSTA — North Augusta voters will decide whether the city will give restaurants, groceries and convenience stores the option to sell alcohol on Sundays.
The city council voted 5-2 on Monday night in favor of an ordinance that will allow a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. Council members Arthur Shealy and Pat Carpenter voted against it.
The referendum does not include liquor stores, and it’s against state law for liquor stores to be open on Sundays.
Augusta and Aiken allow Sunday alcohol sales, and if North Augustans vote as their neighbors have, it would allow the city to be competitive, said Judy Whaley, the director of member services at the Greater North Augusta Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s very tough,” she said of getting restaurants to ope in North Augusta. “It’s very hard when they can go to two different places and on Sundays still do what they would normally do.”
South Carolina bill H. 5098, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley in June. It allows municipalities to put the question before voters during county, state and presidential elections rather than having to wait until the municipality’s general election.
The bill is particularly helpful in North Augusta, where there usually isn’t a city general election, Hixon said.
“Our town is different from lots of towns in the state,” said Hixon, who is a lifelong resident of the city. “Our mayor and council are pretty much determined in the primary, so we would not have a general election because they would not have anyone running against them of another party.”
Hixon said he considers the bill a way to help the city remove “stumbling blocks” to attracting more restaurants.
“I saw it as a competitive situation where Augusta was winning, the city of Aiken was winning and North Augusta wasn’t getting the restaurants we should be getting for the size and population we have in North Augusta,” he said.
Forty-six towns, cities or counties in the state allow Sunday alcohol sales, he said.
“It’s all left up to the people of this town to decide whether they want to have alcohol sales on Sunday,” Hixon said. “We have to let them vote and decide.”