North Augusta Sunday Sales Referendum Eyed for Retail and Dine-In
By Sarita Chourey
Morris News Service
June 21, 2012 — COLUMBIA -- Restaurants and liquor stores could be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays, if an expected ordinance goes forward to place the question before voters this fall.
The North Augusta City Council is planning to introduce the ordinance in July to place the referendum on the ballot for the November 6 presidential election.
North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones said he instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance for both restaurants and retail stores to be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays but acknowledged there is mixed support for it on the council.
Jones said the original request from the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce was for both restaurants and retail venues.
"I believe that's what the majority will approve," said Jones of the council, adding that the city is bound by law to only having a referendum every four years.
"The whole law is messed up," added Jones. "You should be able to vote on restaurants and convenience stores independently of one another."
Business and local government leaders had hoped voters would be able to decide on whether to eliminate the Sunday sales prohibition by this November, when voter turnout will be at its highest, rather than having to wait until April of next year. Without the newly signed law, the city would have been forced to wait.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill, H. 5098, into law on Monday.
Nevertheless, bill sponsor Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, has said during the legislative process that he opposes the inclusion of retail establishments in the referendum, and that discussions with local leaders had centered on easing sales restrictions on only restaurants.
The lawmaker said last month he doubts the community will vote for opening up liquor stores on Sunday.
Business advocates have been eying the loosened restrictions as a way to keep up with the neighboring Aiken and Augusta and to stop prospective businesses from passing over the 22,000-person city because of its alcohol restrictions.
Changing the law has drawn concerns.
The legislation also worried the Palmetto Family, a Columbia-based non-profit that promotes traditional, conservative social values. Some within the liquor store industry have worried that the extra day they must stay open will not yield additional business, but will instead dilute the existing commerce across additional operating hours.
Reach Sarita Chourey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 727-4257
This story submitted from Chourey, Sarita using email address email@example.com