Many leaders in no rush to hold vote on Sunday alcohol sales

In a small town with convenience stores and churches on the street corners, there’s little talk buzzing in Grovetown about the upcoming vote to permit alcohol sales in retail stores on Sundays.

It’s the people’s choice, but the people aren’t voicing strong opinions one way or another, Grovetown Mayor George James said earlier this fall. He thinks Tuesday’s vote will pass, making Grovetown the first town in the area to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Several communities across the state moved to put the vote on a ballot after Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation in April allowing local governments to make the decision about Sunday sales in stores from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Most area towns, including Harlem, Thom­son and Augusta, said they will wait until next year instead of calling a special election.

“We just happen to have an election coming up,” James said.

If the vote passes, sales from one day of the week won’t be a huge moneymaker. Though Grove­town isn’t projecting extra tax revenue, James said, it could attract a few more sales from nearby areas that won’t vote as soon.

“If you live next door to a county that doesn’t get on a ballot, that could give you more sales,” he said.

Augusta is waiting until 2012, said Augusta Com­missioner Joe Bowles. Spending upwards of $70,000 on a special election isn’t worth any missed tax revenue, he said.

In Columbia County, the vote will also wait, said county Commission Chairman Ron Cross. Grovetown and Harlem need their own vote because they are incorporated areas of the county, he said.

“We’re not going to call a special election just for this issue,” Cross said.

Columbia County is in no hurry to collect what would probably be a insignificant amount of tax revenue, he said. Few people have brought forth discussion to the commission so far, but Cross said the county has an influx of new residents who bring new ideas.

“It’s a toss-up to me,” he said. “You have six days to buy, but why shouldn’t alcohol be sold just like everything else?”

The revenue impact could fall closer to the businesses, which predict more customers will stay close to home rather than head to South Carolina, where Aiken County has a special permit for Sunday sales.

“If it does pass, I’m sure our business will skyrocket. People will come here instead of going to Aiken,” said Penny Walker, the manager of the Circle K store on Wrightsboro Road in Grovetown.

Less enthusiasm is rising from church leaders.

“I’m all for the people choo­sing,” said Pastor Ste­ven Adams, of Grove First Bap­tist Church in Grove­town. “There’s a big bother in my own heart and mind. There’s just a loss of reverence and fear for God.”

Harlem Mayor Bobby Cul­pepper said the city council will put the issue on the ballot eventually, though the town only has two convenience stores and one grocery store that stand to benefit from sales.

“I don’t think there would be a whole lot of people rushing over to Grovetown to buy alcohol. That’s the reason we didn’t feel the urgency,” he said.

Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry said neither the city nor McDuffie County were eagerly pursuing the vote. Grocery stores aren’t asking for it, and Thomson plans to wait until requests are made.

“We just didn’t feel like it was the time to put it out there for the voters,” Usry said.

Thomson is always looking for added revenue, he said, but Usry isn’t afraid of losing that money to Sunday sales elsewhere.

“There’s always that possibility people will skip over lines, but the loss is negligible,” he said.

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