Grovetown residents voted Tuesday to allow merchants to sell packaged alcohol on Sundays.
The referendum, which passed with 59.91 percent of the votes, allows liquor, grocery and convenience stores to sell packaged beer, wine and liquor on Sundays.
Mayor George James, who ran unopposed on the ballot for a second four-year term, said city leaders put the referendum on the ballot to allow residents to decide.
“The ways of the world are changing, and I guess we change with it,” City Manager Shirley Beasley said. “It is something you put up in a referendum and let your citizens vote for.”
Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation in April allowing local governments to make the decision about Sunday alcohol sales in stores from 12:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Merchants in the city could start selling alcohol on Sundays as early as next month, Beasley said, after city council amends the existing ordinance.
Beasley said she expects the first of two required public readings to be held Monday during a city council meeting. If approved, the second reading likely will be Dec. 12.
Of Georgia’s 694 cities and counties, Grovetown was one of 127 to put the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot, according to the Georgia Food Industry Association. Only 17 of the referendums failed.
James has said he doesn’t expect Sunday sales to be a big revenue-maker, even though the city temporarily would be the only local area to sell packaged alcohol on Sundays. But it might bring more Sunday customers to the city businesses, he said.
“It definitely will until the county or somebody” passes a similar referendum and puts them on equal ground again, James said.
“Should the county put it up and the county vote it down, the merchants in the city could benefit from it,” he said.
Harlem officials decided not to put the referendum on the ballot. It is expected to go before voters in Augusta in March, according to the food association. Officials have not yet said when a referendum could take place in Columbia County, though it is expected next year.
In addition to James, Grovetown voters re-elected incumbent city council member Jennifer Jones, with 352 votes.
Jones said she is focused on the impending hiring of a city Human Resources director and the Urban Redevelopment Committee.
“We’re trying to focus on the city center and the downtown area, beautifying it,” Jones said, “and giving it character and trying to make all the buildings look similar so our downtown area has character.”
Newcomer Dale Stoddard, brother of current council member Bruce Stoddard, beat out Theoplis Knight for the second seat with 168 votes, but no one needs to worry about the brothers bloc voting, Dale Stoddard said.
“We’re totally two different people with the same last name,” he said. “We’re brothers, we’re both Stoddards, but we think totally different.”
In Harlem, voters re-elected Tom Blalock, who has served nearly eight years on the council, with 163 votes. Newcomer and Assistant Fire Chief Gregg Stokes beat out two others with 186 votes to fill the seat being vacated by Robin Root.