Several North Augusta grocery and convenience stores, and one restaurant have started selling beer and wine on Sundays.
Ruby Tuesday was the first to submit an application in December to do so, quickly followed by Kroger, Bi-Lo, Publix and two Kangaroo Express locations.
North Augusta voters gave the OK in November to a referendum regarding the on-premise and off-premise sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. Restaurants and stores were then able to apply for a license for the possession, sale and consumption of alcohol by the drink. The license does not apply to liquor, which cannot be sold on Sunday per state law.
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 top 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.
Among those who have addressed the issue were Mayor Lark Jones and North Augusta City Council member Arthur Shealy.
“It passed by referendum. It’s now in place, and it’s working,” Jones said after Monday’s Council meeting.
He added, “I was in a local grocery store on Saturday, and they had a sign up, saying, ‘We do now sell beer and wine on Sunday.’ The major reason or doing it, of course, was to remove a competitive disadvantage as far as restaurants are concerned, and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Shealy, when asked, said, “I just happened to be in Publix, doing my bi-weekly grocery shopping yesterday (Sunday), and asked the clerk if you could buy alcohol in there on Sundays.
“She said, ‘Yeah, why? Do you want some?’ and I declined. I said, ‘No, I wasn’t interested,’ but it didn’t look like anyone was carrying alcohol out in a significant manner, so I don’t think it made that much difference.”
Neither Ruby Tuesday or Kangaroo Express would comment on the issue. Kroger and Publix could not be reached for comment.
“We constantly strive to provide a comprehensive array of products and services to our customers and this recent added service allows us to continue to meet the needs of our local community,” said Rondel Cuyler, director of public relations for Bi-Lo.
Jones, referring to the situation that existed until this week, said, “I personally don’t think that’s a significant enough difference to keep somebody from coming to North Augusta, because ... you can do a lot of business every day of the week excluding Sunday, as proven by Chick-fil-A, but if it removes an impediment that puts us at a competitive disadvantage, we want to do that, because we want to compete on a level playing field.”
“We may see some difference later in the year, when people realize that they can buy alcohol on Sundays, and they get used to that opportunity,” Shealy said.