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Sunday sales vote likely
City Council members support citizens deciding on alcohol

      In regard to a referendum that would allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays in Statesboro, the question may not be if, but when City Council will motion to permit the issue be placed on ballots this November.
      City officials have begun discussion of a referendum that would authorize Sunday sales of libations in Statesboro bars, restaurants and stores, and appear confident a motion will be made prior to this fall’s general election, said Councilman Will Britt.
      “We have talked about it briefly and will talk about it again. I do think that in the next two or three meetings the issue will be talked about more,” he said. “Not one person I have talked with has opposed allowing a vote. I feel fairly certain that there will be a referendum; it is something that we are going to present to the public.”
      City representatives are tackling the issue a little more than one month after Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a bill allowing communities to decide whether to allow sales of alcohol on Sundays.
      With all councilmen publicly acknowledging that they would vote to allow a referendum, Statesboro could soon join a growing list of municipalities throughout the state that will ask residents to decide on Sunday sales.
      In Chatham County, representatives of Savannah, Garden City, Tybee Island, Thunderbolt, Pooler and Port Wentworth already have called for referendum; citizens of Albany, Kennesaw, Loganville and a host of cities in the metro-Atlanta region will vote on the issue November 8.
      According to Britt, councilmen still must determine, prior to voting on a motion, what a new referendum would fully entail.
      “What the referendum is exactly – how it is worded – we don’t know yet,” Britt said.
      Officials would determine whether to motion for an all-encompassing referendum that allows sales in restaurants, bars and grocery/convenience stores, or call for more limited alternatives, he said.
      “If I had to guess, I would think there will be two referendums on the books,” said Britt; “A vote to allow Sunday sales for bars or restaurants, and one for other stores.”
      Currently, the alcohol-issue is not atop the pecking order for the handling of city business, said Councilman Travis Chance.
      “I don’t know what the timetable is or when a vote would come up,” said Chance. “But a few of the things we are trying to get finalized before we begin working on the alcohol issue are trying to complete the changes to our charter and finalizing the process of redistricting. As soon as those issues are out of the way, the next topic will be an alcohol referendum.”
      According to Michael Graves, staff attorney for the city, a motion to either permit or deny a referendum on Sunday sales could appear on a council meeting agenda as early as June 21 – Council’s second regularly scheduled meeting this month.
      In order to begin the process or garnering pre-clearance from the Department of Justice for a referendum to appear on the November ballot, Graves is preparing a motion that could be introduced pending approval by City Council and interim City Manager Frank Parker.
      Graves said the target date for introducing a motion to Council will be either June’s final meeting or the first meeting in July.

      Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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