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The city of Grovetown has three convenience stores, two grocery stores, two package shops and a pharmacy licensed to sell carry-out alcohol.
Starting Sunday, those stores will be an oasis in the midst of a desert.
When city council members unanimously voted Monday to approve the second and final reading of an amendment to their alcohol ordinance, it fulfilled voters’ wishes from a Nov. 8 referendum.
That referendum, enabled by Georgia’s Legislature when it passed a law this year allowing local communities to decide whether to allow sales of packaged beer, wine and liquor on Sundays, passed in Grovetown with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Monday’s council vote went into immediate effect, meaning this Sunday is the first day package alcohol sales will be allowed in the city that also in the 1970s was the first in Columbia County to offer liquor sales.
A Grovetown code enforcement official planned this week to visit each store already licensed for package alcohol sales to let them know of the law’s change, said City Administrator Shirley Beasley.
Each of those stores now will be allowed to sell carry-out alcohol from 12:30-11:30 p.m. Sundays. The law applies only to stores within the city limits of Grovetown.
“That’s going to bring a lot of revenue to this little town,” said Jessie Wright, assistant manager of Food Lion at 806 Lewiston Road.
That’s because no other local communities as yet allow Sunday package alcohol sales.
Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson said the county won’t hold a referendum on Sunday sales until July, in conjunction with party primaries. Harlem Administrator Jason Rizner said city officials haven’t yet decided when they’ll hold a vote, and Augusta officials have said they plan to hold a referendum in March.
In addition to attracting Sunday buyers to Grovetown, the change in the law also might cut down on the last-minute Saturday rush each week at the beer cooler, Wright said.
“The last few minutes in here before we close is very busy,” he said.
Peter Lee, owner of GT Package Shop at 5108 Wrightsboro Road, agrees.
“Most people buy for Sunday on Saturday afternoon or evening,” Lee said. “Now they can wait until Sunday.
“I think it will all equal out,” Lee added. “Certainly sales will go up, but not much.”
While most Grovetown stores contacted said they plan to sell if allowed this Sunday, Lee said he’ll stay closed because of previously scheduled plans. State law doesn’t allow alcohol sales on Christmas Day, so Lee’s first Sunday opening will be Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, the manager of Billy Jack’s Party Shop isn’t yet certain whether the store will open on what ordinarily is their only day off.
“I’m not planning to open this Sunday, but we’ll probably give it a trial run soon,” said Angel Wallace, whose father owns the store.
“I’m going to talk to my employees and see if anyone is interested in those hours,” she added.