Originally created 06/30/03

Few in Georgia cross river to buy



AIKEN - Just like the slow pace of a Carolina weekend afternoon, the start of Sunday beer and wine sales in Aiken was taken casually.

Some shoppers at the Bi-Lo on York Street had packages of beer in their carts or were carrying out single packages in bags.

But most carts were filled with basic food necessities - orange juice, eggs and cereal.

"I think it's a good thing, as long as you don't abuse it," said Gary Gaskins, of North Augusta. Mr. Gaskins carried out a 12-pack of Killian's Irish Red beer with some other groceries.

Shannon Mitchell, who went with Mr. Gaskins to the store, said Sunday alcohol sales weren't really a big deal.

"It's a matter of abuse, like anything else," she said. "To some people (Sunday sales) are going to be a big thing."

The pair said they didn't drive to Aiken specifically to buy beer - they were going to a friend's barbecue in town.

So how many Georgians, who can't buy beer on Sunday, took the trek to Aiken?

In an unscientific survey of parking lot license plates, most of the vehicles in front of the Bi-Lo supermarket on York Street had South Carolina tags.

There were tags from Louisiana and North Carolina, but none from Georgia on Sunday afternoon.

Management of several Aiken grocery stores would not comment about Sunday alcohol sales. An employee of the Bi-Lo on Pine Log Road, who did not want to be named, said business was steady by Sunday afternoon.

The employee said out-of-state business was "half and half."

Sunday alcohol sales were to have started a week earlier, on June 22, but a protest letter from an Aiken resident to the South Carolina Department of Revenue delayed the sales for a week.

In all, 13 Aiken grocery and convenience stores were issued permits for Sunday sales.

In November, voters in Aiken approved a referendum that allowed Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants and motels, but the state later interpreted the referendum to apply to sales for off-premises consumption as well.

"I approve of it," said Joseph Dozier, who carried out a case of Bud Light. "When it's legal, at least the state gets a piece of the tax."

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.