EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second installment of a 10-part series on the top stories of 2012.
Blue laws took a beating this year as more area municipalities joined the growing number allowing Sunday alcohol sales.
On Super Tuesday in March, Augusta voters approved a referendum that made Augusta-Richmond County the largest jurisdiction in the area to allow Sunday packaged alcohol sales. The vote wasn’t close; about 58 percent voted to approve the measure.
Similar scenarios played out in Blythe, Harlem, the unincorporated areas of Columbia County, North Augusta and Burke County.
It wasn’t without some controversy, as some officials bemoaned the change.
“I hate to see people leaving the church on Sunday and their first stop is the liquor store,” said Augusta Commission member Bill Lockett, who voted against the licensing required to allow Sunday packaged alcohol sales to begin April 1 with no additional fee for retailers.
After the dominoes began to fall, many municipalities had to keep pace to so they wouldn’t lose revenue to their neighbors. Grovetown voters had gotten the ball rolling in late 2011 when they OK’d Sunday sales. Aiken passed a Sunday alcohol sales ordinance for retail beer and wine the same year.
The Aiken Hospitality Group estimated that the Sunday alcohol sales ordinance could generate up to $91,500 in revenue for Aiken this year.
For some business owners, allowing Sunday alcohol sales was a no-brainer.
The owner of Mack’s Country Store on Georgia Highway 88 in Blythe said he was losing $1,500 to $2,000 each Sunday to the competition a mile and a half away.
Because customers want to buy their gas, cigarettes, beer, wine and other items at one time, they were taking their business to the nearby Citgo station, which lies outside the Blythe city limits in Richmond County and can sell alcohol on Sundays.
“It would mean a whole lot for my business. I need it approved,” Jim Rose said earlier in the year, before Blythe voters passed the ordinance in July. “Good customers of mine tell me that is exactly what they’re doing on Sundays. I hope that the people in the city of Blythe will understand and vote yes when it comes time to vote it in.”