It seems that in their eagerness to open the door for more full-service restaurants in Grovetown, officials in Columbia County's biggest city got halfway to approving an illegal ordinance.
City Attorney Brendan Fleming, whose job it is to research such things, belatedly told city officials that Georgia law allows Sunday alcohol sales to be approved only by voters. It's embarrassing that the ordinance had already survived first reading in a city council meeting two weeks earlier before Fleming pointed out the problem.
They didn't plan it this way, of course, but city officials now have plenty of time to work on a legal ordinance to take before voters in November during city council elections.
One thing is sure: If the city council had been able to approve Sunday by-the-drink sales in its meeting a week ago, that would have been a far easier road. Voters, after all, can be unpredictable. Georgia law, written to make it tough to increase the availability of alcohol sales, forces local officials to seek voter approval before making such a change. Just as boosters are now forced to wait, however, opponents of Sunday sales will have more time to organize.
Unfortunately for fast-growing Grovetown, all of this also likely means a significant delay in commercial development. Larger chain restaurants - Applebee's, specifically, is being courted for the city - won't invest in a new facility if they can't have full bar service, seven days a week. Uncertainty over Sunday sales will put any such development plans on ice at least until after the November vote.
Those opposed to Sunday sales deserve respect for their views. But reality says that Grovetown is a dry oasis in the middle of a community in which Sunday sales are allowed. High-end commercial development will simply bypass Grovetown if it can't get inside the city limits.
It's important to remember, too, that the city's municipal laws allowed liquor stores years before Columbia County ever enacted its own alcohol ordinances. Grovetown now finds itself stalled by those same laws, but voters in November will be able to straighten it out.
Just make sure the attorney gets it right this time.
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