The North Augusta City Council on July 2 approved on second reading a motion to give residents the right to vote on alcohol sales in restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores on Sundays.
The referendum, if adopted in the county general election on Nov. 6, would allow all establishments with a license to sell drinks for on-premise consumption, both restaurants and bars, to pay an additional fee for Sunday sales. The measure allows sales either on a weekly basis for $50 per Sunday, or for $3,000 per year.
Mayor Lark Jones said the licenses will allow establishments that are on the fence about the profitability of Sunday sales to have trial runs to explore the market, or to choose to sell alcoholic drinks only on the Sundays they believe will maximize their profits, such as holiday weekends.
Only councilman Arthur Shealy voted against it, stating that he supported the clause that allowed restaurants to sell drinks for on-site consumption but not the one that would enable sales in grocery and convenience stores.
North Augusta Chief of Public Safety John Thomas said the measure, if passed in November, would cause no additional burden to public safety, because such sales are already legal in Augusta and Aiken, and because citizens already have access to alcoholic beverages in their homes.
Most on the council seemed to favor the incentive that Sunday sales would provide for establishments looking to set up shop in the area.
“It’s tough to compete with Augusta and Aiken if they have more liberal laws than we do,” Jones said.
The mayor also emphasized that no establishment would be forced to open or sell alcohol on Sundays if it did not want to and that the measure would only allow them to choose for themselves whether or not to sell drinks on Sunday.
Councilwoman Pat Carpenter said she grew up with an alcoholic father and, while she was not pushing for the measure’s adoption, as an elected official she thought it was right to give her constituents the right to vote on the issue for themselves in November.
The referendum would have no effect on sales in liquor stores, which are regulated by South Carolina law.
Council will have the final reading of the proposed referendum at Monday’s meeting, which will be at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building on Georgia Avenue.