Voters to decide Sunday alcohol questions

Published 8:19 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Next March, Bainbridge voters will get to weigh in on whether alcoholic beverages can be sold on Sundays, the Bainbridge City Council decided Tuesday night.

Citizen Kenneth Pearce, who had asked the council to consider holding referendums on Sunday alcohol sales at the council’s Oct. 18 meeting, returned Tuesday night.

The council took no action at the Oct. 18 meeting, but after getting more information from City Manager Chris Hobby on Tuesday, the council decided to place the issue on the March 6, 2012 ballot. That ballot is when citizens will also be voting in the presidential preference primary election. The Council voted 5-0 to approve a motion by Councilman Dean Burke, who had not been joined when he made the same motion on Oct. 18. Councilwoman Glennie Bench was not present for the vote.

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Voters who live within the city limits will get to cast their ballots on two separate referendums: one, on whether to allow package sales of alcohol on Sundays at places like liquor, grocery and convenience stores; and two, whether or not to allow restaurants to serve liquor by the drink on Sundays.

On Nov. 8, voters in 127 Georgia cities and counties voted on Sunday alcohol sales referendums, according to the Georgia Food Industry Association (GFIA). Of those, 105 were successful, 21 failed and the result of one is still outstanding.

According to the GFIA, some of the cities where the referendums were defeated include Albany, the Southeast Georgia cities of Brunswick, Kingsland, Woodbine, Garden City, Swainsboro and Waycross. Statesboro approved the referendum, although two small towns in Bulloch County did not.

Along with Bainbridge, other Georgia places that have announced referendums for March 6 include Augusta-Richmond County, Conyers and Marietta, as well as Effingham and Rockdale counties. Athens-Clarke County will hold a referendum next July.

Tifton, Cordele, Thomasville, Columbus, Camilla, Leesburg and Sylvester are among the places that have not yet scheduled referendums.

If Sunday package sales are approved, they would still only be permitted between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., according to the state law. A local ordinance could be more strict on the hours of sale, but not less strict, according to State Sen. John Bulloch, who sponsored the bill that set up the referendum process.