While Few, Sunday Sales Losses A Win For Local Control

Today’s Courier Herald Column: AND noted by Griftdrift in the comments, there was a problem with vote tabulation in Forest Park. Apparently, the referendum passed there too.

Tybee Island is the eastern most municipality in the State of Georgia. While it is host to many visitors during warm weather months, the year round residents pride themselves on a feisty and independent nature. Tuesday, it joined the vast majority of Georgia cities and counties which held referendums to allow the sale of Alcohol on Sundays in grocery and package stores by voting yes. 85% of Tybee’s residents voted in favor of the measure, leaving little doubt where the community stands on the issue.

On the exact other side of the state, Northwest Georgia’s Ft. Oglethorpe has the claim of housing Dwight Eisenhower early in his career. The community was also home of a controversy during the last Governor’s race of whether the Ft. Oglethorpe High School Cheerleaders would be allowed to lead a prayer before football games. Ft. Oglethorpe’s residents bucked the statewide trend and voted no on Sunday sales.
Sandy Springs, the newly created city in Fulton County just north of the City of Atlanta, matched Tybee’s 85% support in approving Sunday Sales. Forest Park, on the southern stretch of I-285 just South of Atlanta, was the only metro Atlanta municipality to vote the measure down.

The battle to approve Sunday alcohol sales lasted over six years, and it ultimately became framed as a local choice issue. Though the votes in the General Assembly became among the most controversial of the last session, the campaigns surrounding most of the local referendums were quiet. There were no outward signs of a major statewide organized effort to direct turnout or votes for these local campaigns, for or against. When the votes were counted, they reflected the local community’s choice.

Tybee and Sandy Springs are easy to understand. Tybee is full of coastal spirit, which often equates to spirits. Sandy Springs is composed of a broad cross section of modern Atlantans, many of which aren’t from around here. The ties to the “Bible Belt” customs are often tangential, and even for those who are native Georgian seem to equate blue laws to bygone eras. Though very different in geography and demographics, the two have community standards which clearly support 7 day alcohol sales.

Ft Oglethorpe is also fairly easy to understand. It, along with nearby Whitfield County, Tunnel Hill, and Varnell were among the Georgia communities to say “no”. The area is among the most conservative in Georgia, both fiscally and socially. And for those who forget to plan their alcohol purchases for earlier in the week, the Tennessee or Alabama state line is a short drive away.

But then, there is Forest Park. To be charitable, the city has seen better days. Under the flight pattern of a busy Hartsfield Jackson airport and home to an emptying Ft Gillem, the city deals with its share of blight. Yet Residents who have remained within the city over the last decade as many others moved deeper into the suburbs of Atlanta have attempted to keep some sense of their own community. Their fights against strip club proliferation during the 90’s were political and legal legend. Though they were unsuccessful, the battles with the clubs that remain are frequent. Refusing to allow alcohol sales on one day a week is a sign that many of Forest Park residents have not yet given up on their vision of their town.

While the fact that some will still be disappointed that a community would vote down a measure when alcohol is already available 6 days a week on in Restaurants in many places on Sunday, they should perhaps consider what made this possible in many locales across Georgia. The concept of local control was key to finally moving this bill through the legislature. For that to matter, local community standards must hold.

The lopsided nature of the number of votes that passed versus those that did not should not indicate that Sunday sales is stronger statewide than it is. Many locals have yet to hold a referendum, deferring to when regularly scheduled elections will be held. Many may never hold such a referendum. The local leaders who set such referendums are charged with knowing their constituents and their wishes best.

For those who wish to rush to stores this Sunday to mark the occasion, be forewarned. There are varying dates when these laws take effect, depending on language in each local referendum. While some are scheduled to be implemented “immediately” upon approval, the votes will likely not be certified until at least next week.

Thus, should you choose to toast this occasion, plan ahead again this Sunday. And should you choose to abstain, that’s still your choice too. That’s the beauty of choice. It’s a great by product of freedom.

24 comments

    • nast says:

      Now, I’m not conspiracy nut, but shouldn’t that be a little disconcerting to people? On the one hand, they caught the error and corrected the problem. On the other hand, they only caught it because the Elections Supervisor knew that there were far fewer votes cast (around 700) than were reported. If that number weren’t low enough for him to know off the top of his head, would the mistake have been uncovered?

      • Calypso says:

        “…shouldn’t that be a little disconcerting to people?”

        No, it should be a lot disconcerting to people. Somebody needs to dig for some answers here.

        • nast says:

          Yeah, it was about a simple vote as you can get – a single question with a binary outcome for a small number of voters, which made the mistake by these computers more “observable.” If it is happening under such simple conditions, one could assume that it is happening under more complex conditions, but the number of voters (or outcomes) makes it much more difficult to discern any problems. Scary.

  1. CobbGOPer says:

    I think you mean “losses,” not “loses.”

    Also, this is just poor sentence construction: “While the fact that some will still be disappointed that a community would vote down a measure when alcohol is already available 6 days a week on in Restaurants in many places on Sunday, they should perhaps consider what made this possible in many locales across Georgia.”

    Your editor must have the day off.

  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “For those who wish to rush to stores this Sunday to mark the occasion, be forewarned. There are varying dates when these laws take effect, depending on language in each local referendum.”

    That’s okay because REAL alcoholics plan ahead and always have an abundant stash on hand, no matter the occasion or situation. Last January’s winter storm is proof enough of why a true alcoholic should be ready for any and all possible scenarios.

    REAL alcoholics don’t need Sunday sales to get buzzed as they are likely in some seedy (or upscale) strip club or neighborhood bar getting liquored up anyways.

    “The lopsided nature of the number of votes that passed versus those that did not should not indicate that Sunday sales is stronger statewide than it is.”

    Sounds arrogant, but most of the voters here in the heavily-populated Atlanta Region don’t care about whether Sunday sales is an issue in more remote, sparcely-populated corners of the state, they only know that no one is going to stand between them and their liquor on anyday of the week and that they are going to run to the polls to overwhelmingly vote for the right to buy alcoholic beverages on Sundays at the very first opportunity they get.

    That’s alright, too, because as Jerry Luquire of the vaunted Georgia Christian Coalition stated in today’s AJC (http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/sunday-alcohol-sales-prove-1220719.html), “Our message was soundly defeated,” he said. “We’ll probably change our approach for next year, but we’ve still got half the state population to go.”

    That-a-boy, Jerry, we’ve got every confidence that the Georgia Christian Coalition will be mobilized and ready to go get in-between Georgians and their liquor NEXT TIME.

  3. Dave Bearse says:

    Given the overwhelming majofities statewide, I think the story here isn’t local control, but the stranglehold special interests have on legislation within Georgia. In this case the theocrat minority blocked legislation for a half dozen years.

    OK, Perdue was an obstacle too. But on the other hand, there’s the possibility that Perdue wouldn’t have been re-elected with a veto of that legislation on his record.

    • Harry says:

      Get over it. The “special interest” 800 pound gorilla was the liquor industry. And I’m sure you’ll drink to that. You’re in reality advocating for more problems in the legal system, missed time from work, broken homes, shortened lifespans…

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        It wasn’t the liquor and package stores that advocated for the change in law as liquor stores were actually against the change because they didn’t necessarily want to have to open up on Sundays to serve a few more customers at best (the costs of opening up on Sundays, employing staff on an additional day, etc aren’t necessarily worth the relatively minor increase in sales).

        It was the grocery industry, whose stores are already open on Sundays who wanted to enhance and increase their existing revenue streams on a day of the week that they are already operating who were behind the big push for Sunday sales in Georgia.

        Transplants who make up most of the Atlanta Region’s population and come from other states where Sunday sales of alcohol are already permitted at grocery and liquor stores (which is every other state in the union but Connecticut and Indiana) were also behind the big push for Sunday sales.

        When legislators tried to kill the Sunday sales issue yet again earlier this year at the behest of the Georgia Christian Coalition in the last legislative session, their phones, e-mail and social media pages lit up like Christmas trees with numerous angry messages from very unhappy constituents “compelling” them to act on the issue.

        As for opponents’ contention that Sunday sales of alcohol will create more legal, social and health problems, those problems are already a reality as lots of motorists are already getting busted by police for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) after driving home from many of the numerous strip clubs, bars and even restaurants that are already permitted by law to serve alcoholic drinks on Sundays.

        Drinking and driving after being served alcoholic beverages at one of the many nightclubs, bars and restaurants open on Sundays is much more of a public safety risk than someone who buys a closed container at a grocery or liquor store and partakes of it AFTER driving home or getting off of the roads.

  4. bowersville says:

    Though I would vote no and wouldn’t publicly advocate a position one way or another, Sunday Sales should be put on the ballot and decided one way or the other in each community.

    This wedge issue should be gone.

Comments are closed.