With the vote Tuesday night, it won’t be long before North Augustans will have the option of purchasing alcoholic beverages on Sunday.
City voters cast their ballots more than 2 to 1 in favor of a local question regarding the on-premise and off-premise sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday.
Preliminary results show nearly 70 percent were in favor or the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday in North Augusta. The tally was 4,609 in favor and 2,103 opposed.
With an affirmative decision, restaurants will be able to apply for a liquor license good for Sundays and can begin serving alcoholic drinks possibly within the next week or so. City Administrator Todd Glover said he had been in conversation with City Attorney Kelly Zier, and they thought the City could begin taking applications for Sunday sales immediately, once the vote is certified. Glover said Zier was checking on whether the City Council has to do anything official before beginning to issue the Sunday liquor licenses, “but we don’t think so,” said Glover.
The affirmative vote will also allow convenience stores and grocery stores to sell wine and beer on Sundays with a temporary license (but not liquor, which is regulated in state-approved venues and cannot be sold on Sunday, by state law).
The City Administrator said vendors can purchase a temporary alcohol license by the week or pay for a year at a time. “Oddly enough,” he said, “the price for an individual (weekly) license, when multiplied by 52 is less than the cost of a license for the whole year.”
Referring to the view many have suggested that North Augusta will not get high-end restaurants interested in locating in the City without the option of Sunday sales, Mayor Lark Jones said, “I hope this removes what is seen as an impediment.” Not surprised by the vote, Jones opined, “I don’t think it will dramatically change things in North Augusta.” He noted that with the current economy, “I’ve not had any restaurants come to me and say that (not having alcohol on Sunday) is the problem.”
Jones also suggested that North Augustans aren’t big alcohol consumers so he wasn’t sure what impact the vote will have on the local economy either. But, he concluded, if the option of alcohol on Sunday gets restaurants to take a second look at North Augusta, “we need more restaurants, and we can show them that business can be had here.”
The local question was put forward by the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce and by the North Augusta 2000 community foundation. Officials for both organizations had suggested the No. 1 desire mentioned by local residents for an improved quality of life was “more high-end restaurants.” And both groups saw Sunday alcohol sales as a potential aid in getting those restaurants to consider North Augusta.
Irregularities in balloting discovered during the day raised some concerns when numerous voters who are City residents were given the wrong ballots and denied a chance to vote on the local question regarding alcohol sales. Glover had commented that if the vote on Sunday sales had been close – either way – that could have been a problem. With the 70-30 margin of vote on the local question, he felt the outcome likely was not affected by the problems.
Staff photo by Bill Bengtson Rep. Bill HIxon, left, whose district includes parts of Aiken and Edgefield counties, and poll clerk Barry Whitney discuss allegations of voting irregularities Tuesday evening at Riverview Park Activities Center, in North Augusta.×