Originally created 11/06/02

Sunday liquor sales get Aiken's approval



AIKEN - Spirits were high Tuesday night for advocates of Sunday alcohol sales in Aiken after strong support for a referendum allowing it.

With eight of 19 precincts counted, the question had gained a 66 percent "yes" vote. It needed more than 50 percent approval to pass.

The referendum was placed on the ballot after the Aiken Hospitality Group collected the signatures of more than 10 percent of the city's registered voters, or about 1,300 people.

The hospitality group is made up of restaurant and hotel owners who argued that Aiken was being passed over for other tourist destinations because the city didn't serve alcohol on Sundays.

They said the city also was missing out on in-town diners who enjoy a drink with dinner. With the referendum's passing, restaurants and hotels can now apply to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Members of the hospitality group gathered Tuesday at the Hotel Aiken. They ate pizza and waited on vote totals.

"We swept it, you know," said Sam Erb, the chairman of the hospitality group.

The initiative received little resistance, except for a handful of letters written to newspapers. Revenue from Sunday alcohol sales licenses goes into city coffers dedicated to tourist-related projects.

In weeks leading to Tuesday's election, the hospitality group ran television commercials and sent letters to 8,200 Aiken homes to reach as many of the city's 15,000 voters as possible.

"The party's started," hospitality member Steve Hale said. "It's a much better victory than we expected."

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