Midstate voters approve Sunday alcohol sales

pramati@macon.comNovember 9, 2011 

Middle Georgia voters who wanted to legalize Sunday alcohol sales can pop their champagne corks to celebrate.

Voters across midstate cities and counties approved referendums that will let people buy beer, wine and alcohol from stores on Sundays.

Macon voters approved Sunday package sales 6,782-4,210. The measure is scheduled to take effect Dec. 4 between the hours of 12:30 and 11:30 p.m.

Bibb County’s vote was much closer as voters approved the proposal 4,991-4,257. The tally stayed within a couple hundred votes for much of the evening.

Voters in Perry and Warner Robins approved alcohol-by-the-drink referendums that will allow people in those cities to buy alcohol on Sundays in a restaurant or bar. Fort Valley voters approved the same measure from Mondays through Saturdays. Byron voters also passed measures authorizing the city to permit and regulate the Sunday sale of alcohol by the drink and through package sales.

Bibb County commissioners still have to approve the alcohol referendum, said Commissioner Lonzy Edwards. Should they do so, it would also take effect Dec. 4.

“I am personally against alcohol sales on Sunday, but I felt we needed to give people a chance to have a say on it, and if people say that’s what they want, I don’t know how any of us on the commission can get in the way of the will of the people,” Edwards said.

Many supporters of Sunday sales shared the same attitude: that if people could buy alcohol six days a week, they should be able to buy it on Sundays as well.

“On six other days, it’s legal (to buy alcohol),” said Amy Hollis, 42. “It seems archaic not to do it on Sundays.”

Rebecca Rhodes, 73, said that while she doesn’t purchase a lot of alcohol, she would like to have the option to buy it on Sunday, as many other cities do.

“I voted yes because I’ve lived in a whole lot of places where you could,” she said. “If we had it, it’d be nice. Not that I do a lot of buying alcohol on Sundays, but if you want to be able to get something on Sunday, I think you should be able to.”

Dana Woodard, 47, said that besides convenience, she thinks people would be safer if they could purchase alcohol from a store rather than from a restaurant or bar.

“I’d much rather you be able to buy (from a store) and take it home rather than have someone go into a restaurant and drink, and then possibly drive home while intoxicated,” she said.

In Macon, some voters who voted against the measure said they didn’t think Sunday sales were necessary. They said if people wanted alcohol on Sunday, they could purchase it on a different day.

Bill Hardison, 85, said he doesn’t believe in alcohol sales -- period.

“I don’t believe in selling alcohol on any day,” he said.

Some midstate cities asked voters to approve both Sunday sales and liquor-by-the-drink sales.

In Houston County, Warner Robins voters approved Sunday sales 2,047-1,474 and by-the-drink sales 2,132-1,403. In Centerville, city administrator Patrick Eidson said voters approved Sunday package sales.

In Perry, about 55 percent of voters approved both measures. The vote was 477-393 in favor of package sales and 492-379 in single-beverage sales.

In Peach County, Byron voters passed the by-the-drink question 350-229 and the package sales measure by 335-225. Package sales may be allowed from 12:30 to 11:30 p.m. on Sunday. The by-the-drink measure had no time restraints in its wording. Both will take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Fort Valley voters had an alcohol-by-the-drink referendum for Mondays through Saturday, which they approved 323-240. The Fort Valley City Council is still trying to determine how they will issue liquor licenses to restaurants, which will be discussed at the council’s next meeting.

State lawmakers voted last April to allow residents in Georgia cities and counties to decide whether they wanted Sunday alcohol sales where they lived. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office said that 64 counties and 264 cities across the state put Sunday alcohol sales on Tuesday’s ballot.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. Staff writers Jennifer Burk, Angela Woolen and Caryn Grant contributed to this report.

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