A referendum on Sunday alcohol sales in Columbia County restaurants and hotels appeared to be headed for victory Tuesday.
A second effort to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in Columbia County restaurants and hotels was successful Tuesday as suburban voters solidly approved a local referendum.
With all 31 precincts reporting, the referendum passed by 3,624 votes, with 17,908 votes or 55.6 percent, in favor of Sunday sales and 14,284 votes or 44.4 percent, against it. A similar referendum was defeated by 308 votes - a margin of less than 3 percent - in July 1994.
The measure will allow restaurants and hotels to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits for on-site consumption on Sundays, beginning Jan. 1.
Harold Mays, a local businessman who supported the referendum, applauded the decision, saying it will make the county more competitive for prospective business without bringing in adult entertainment establishments.
"I'm glad to see it pass," Mr. Mays said. "I believe it opens up a lot of possibilities for Columbia County. It does not open Columbia County up to a lot of the bad things you see in neighboring counties."
Mr. Mays and other supporters of the measure have said some hotel and restaurant prospects refused to locate in the county in recent years because they couldn't sell liquor on Sundays.
But Dr. Frank Page, senior pastor at Warren Baptist Church just across the county line in Augusta-Richmond County, said the vote represents a victory of economic interests over moral and ethical considerations.
"We have voted with our pocketbooks and not with any sense of moral expectancy," Dr. Page said.