Originally created 08/31/02

Alcohol sale issue goes on ballot



Voters from Aiken will decide in November whether restaurants and hotels in the city can sell alcohol on Sundays, the Municipal Election Commission announced Friday.

The Aiken Hospitality Group, a coalition of representatives from the restaurant and hotel industry, started a petition drive in July seeking to have the question placed on the November general election ballot.

The group needed 10 percent, or 1,382, of the city's registered voters to place the referendum on the ballot. On Friday, the election commission certified that 1,577 of the 2,676 signatures the hospitality group submitted were valid.

Since the petition drive began, the hospitality group has faced almost no opposition to alcohol sales on Sunday. The group isn't slowing its efforts, however.

To pass, the Sunday sales question must win more than half the vote in November.

"The whole question is a matter of fairness," said Steve Hale, a spokesman for the hospitality group. The people should be allowed to decide, he said.

If the law is passed, establishments wishing to sell alcohol on Sunday can pay $150 a week or $3,000 per year. The fees would go to the city and could be reinvested in tourism, historic properties or redevelopment, among other things, according to state law.

City officials haven't issued an opinion. Those pushing for Sunday sales argue that the city stands to gain as well because of increased tax revenue.

Several parts of the state, including Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, already permit alcohol sales on Sunday. Hospitality group members argue that Aiken, which benefits heavily from tourist dollars, is losing out.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.