• The availability of retail alcohol on Sundays will draw shoppers to Augusta. Grovetown approved Sunday sales in November, but the rest of Columbia County residents won’t vote on the measure until July.
“The only way you receive the additional revenue is if you’re the first,” district Republican Party Chairman Dave Barbee said. Also, Augusta would lose Sunday sales business to other counties if they pass the measure and Augusta does not.
• It will mean more tax revenue. Augusta adds $2.7 million in wholesale excise taxes on packaged beer, wine and liquor to the city’s general fund every year. In Grovetown, the only city in the Georgia side of the region that has approved the sales, excise taxes connected with eight alcohol retailers have generated an additional $2,000 a month in revenue.
“So far, we haven’t seen any negative results,” Grovetown City Administrator Shirley Beasley said. Augusta has more than 400 retailers that would be eligible to sell alcohol.
• It will create license fees. Augusta officials haven’t determined whether an additional license will be required of retailers who want to sell alcohol on Sundays, though the referendum, if approved, would allow the city to permit and regulate Sunday package sales as of March 31.
“If you want to sell on Sundays, you’re going to have to pay the piper,” said Augusta Commission member Joe Jackson, who expects the referendum to pass. “That’s an additional revenue generator.”
• Why not? Adults can buy alcohol every other day of the week, and in restaurants on Sundays, so why not allow retailers to sell on Sundays?
“We like Sunday sales,” said Tim Schroer, the city’s deputy finance director, who grew up in Minnesota, where retail sales were prohibited on Sundays and recently got a thrill buying wine near Atlanta on a Sunday for the first time. Barbee said the availability of alcohol on Sundays is unlikely to increase consumption, only “spread the wealth from six days to seven days.”
• It will create jobs. Having a store open on Sunday will likely require some of the city’s 34 liquor stores to hire additional workers, while more than 300 other businesses engaged in alcohol sales might need more people to handle the extra Sunday traffic.
WHAT OPPONENTS ARE SAYING
• Sunday alcohol will increase crime.
“Alcohol is a contributing factor in many domestic-related calls,” sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said. “We anticipate an increase in domestic-related calls on Sundays because more people are drinking at home.”
• It will have limited economic benefits. Adopting Sunday retail alcohol sales will generate some additional revenue, but not that much.
“I just don’t see where it’s going to generate a significant amount,” Augusta Finance Director Donna Williams said. Augusta Commission member Jerry Brigham favors letting voters decide, but “I don’t think it’s going to be a windfall for us,” he said.
• It will have religious and family consequences. Pastors, especially in black churches, expect Sunday sales to be a topic in several of today’s sermons.
“The Bible speaks of what (excess consumption) can do to our thinking and our attitudes,” said the Rev. Larry Fryer, the pastor of Hudson Memorial CME Church. “With all the violence and criminal activity, those that misuse this substance can create additional problems in the community.” Retired Augusta State University political science professor Ralph Walker said he expected a city deeply rooted in the Bible Belt to vote the measure down. GOP party Chairman Dave Barbee recalled his youth when on Sundays they didn’t buy gasoline or go shopping, much less buy alcohol.
“We’ve strayed away from those hard-core biblical principles,” he said.
The Rev. K.B. Martin, the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, agreed: “We’ve disregarded so many things relative to the day of worship. I would hope the Christian community would oppose Sunday sales.”
Pastor Bryan Cockrell, of Sanctuary Church, said his Pentecostal congregation believes, according to Scripture, “to remember the Lord’s day and keep it holy. I believe the focus on his day should be on Him.”
• Stopping illegal operations will be difficult. Augusta hasn’t determined whether to require an additional Sunday sales permit, but if it does, inspectors will have to ensure establishments lacking the permits aren’t selling on Sundays, city licensing Director Rob Sherman said.
• Liquor stores appreciate the day off. Phillip Song, the owner of Superstar Wine & Spirits on Deans Bridge Road, said he has considered placing “Vote No on Sunday Sales” on his sign because Sunday is a welcome day of rest for liquor store owners. Still, if his competitors start selling and he’s missing out, he’ll open: “I’m not going to open right away. If my sales go down, I’m going to start opening on Sunday.”