Perhaps it’s just happenstance, but as of April Fool’s Day, it’s official: We’re surrounded.
That’s the day Sunday package alcohol sales started to the east of Columbia County, in neighboring Augusta. And it was 17 Sundays ago that Sunday sales started in the southwestern part of the county, in Grovetown.
Yet 23 more dry Sundays will pass before Columbia County has the possibility of Sunday package sales. That’s because 17 more Sundays will go by before Columbia County voters will have the opportunity to vote on the issue. If the referendum passes, we’ll check four more Sundays off the calendar before the will of the voters takes effect on Labor Day Weekend.
I’m confident the referendum will pass.There are no logical arguments against Sunday carryout alcohol sales when Sunday by-the-drink sales are legal. You cannot make the case that adults should be prohibited from driving to a grocery store on Sunday, buying a six-pack and taking it home to drink, while it’s legal for that same adult to go to restaurant on Sunday, drink alcohol and (within the limits of the law) drive back home. That leaves only emotional arguments, which have failed in the overwhelming number of communities where the referendums already have passed in Georgia.
Even so, I remain puzzled at the number of Sundays Columbia County commissioners are allowing to pass before Sunday package sales are even a possibility.
Ordinarily, commissioners are out in front on this sort of thing. The indoor smoking ordinance is a good example; Columbia County was far ahead of the rest of the state, implementing restrictions that are much tougher than Georgia’s, even as Augusta quibbles about changes to its laws.
And maybe it made sense not to set the referendum last fall during the general election, when Grovetown held its vote. Unlike the city with its council elections, Columbia County had no elections planned and would have been forced to pay for a special election in the rest of the county at a cost upwards of $30,000.
But we had another election scheduled March 6 for the presidential preference primary, the day the city of Augusta held and passed its referendum. Four Sundays later, their grocery stores, convenience stores and package stores enjoyed a first-day-of-Masters Week Sunday sales boom – while Columbia County stores surrounding ground zero for golf patrons had to keep the lights off in their coolers.
Barring an unforeseen special election, then, Columbia County voters have 21 more Sundays before they can join the party. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the lost revenue until then didn’t add up to more than what it would have cost to hold that election 43 Sundays ago.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/