Citizens not voting for representation in Statesboro’s city election still have reason to visit the polls Tuesday.
When precincts open on Election Day, city voters will join thousands of others statewide in determining their right to sell and purchase alcohol on Sundays.
Referendum questions are set to appear on ballots in 98 cities and 12 counties across the state, putting into effect, for the first time, a senate bill passed in April to allow communities to permit Sunday sales.
In Statesboro, a July vote by City Council approved a pair of questions for presentation to voters, both easing restrictions on alcohol sales.
If passed, the referendums — one which would allow Sunday sales in restaurants, the other in grocery and convenience stores between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. — could be reflected in the city’s alcohol ordinance before year’s end.
“We will have to amend the ordinance to include [Sunday sales]. It is a very easy change,” said City Councilman Will Britt. “We think it will happen within two meetings — very quickly. I would like to think we will [enact the decision] in the first week of December.”
Since council action is required to amend the ordinance to include Sunday sales, successfully passed referendums will not necessarily mean a change in the city’s law.
However, all members of council have committed to allow citizens make the decision.
“There is no question. If [Sunday sales] are voted for, it will be implemented,” Britt said.
Neither groups in favor of Sunday sales nor those opposed have done much lobbying within the city, but local business owners say they are hoping changes are made.
“I am certainly hopeful [the referendums] pass. My business, and a lot of other businesses in town, will benefit,” said Brian Kelly, owner of Kbob Kelly’s Restaurant. “Some bigger places are losing out on hundreds of thousands dollars a year. It will certainly help my business and we are eager to be able to [sale on Sunday]. An extra day of revenue would put us solidly in the black.”
“I think it would be a positive move for the community and the City of Statesboro,” said Christian Bennett, owner of 119 Chops and Buffalos Café.
“I don’t think [allowing Sunday sales] promotes drinking by any means,” he said. “It promotes people exercising their right to make a decision for themselves.”
Bennett says Sunday is regularly one of the most profitable days for his Buffalos Café location in Hinesville.
“Sundays are the best days some places have. People love to have a glass of wine or a beer with their Sunday football.”
Both owners say the implementation of Sunday alcohol sales would allow them to open their businesses for an extra day. Both say the restaurants would open on the first Sunday under the new law.
“I think this is a matter of Statesboro and Bulloch County prosperity,” Kelly said. Currently, “we have so many people fleeing to other counties to buy alcohol. I think it would add tremendous tax dollars to this town.”
Statesboro voters will not be the only group in Bulloch County deciding on Sunday sales.
Citizens of Portal and Brooklet, as well as county residents, will have an option to vote on referendums allowing Sunday sales in convenience and grocery stores between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Anyone wishing to cast a ballot at the polls must be a registered voter in Bulloch County and present some form of photo identification on the day of elections, according to Bulloch County Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8 and the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A sample ballot for the election can be found at http://www.bullochcounty.net/departments/voterregistration.htm.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.