published Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Liquor issues on Catoosa ballot in November


Three referendums are on the Nov. 6 ballot in Catoosa County:

• Allow sale of hard liquor by the glass in unincorporated areas of the county

• Allow the sale of alcoholic beverages by the glass on Sunday outside the city limits of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe from 12:30 p.m. to midnight.

• Allow stores to sell beer and wine on Sunday between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. in unincorporated areas of the county.

Voters in Catoosa County, Ga., have the chance in November to loosen restrictions on alcohol sales outside Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe.

How big an impact that would have remains to be seen, since almost all restaurants and stores are inside city limits, where Sunday alcohol sales are forbidden.

County commissioners voted to put three referendums on the Nov. 6 ballot. One would allow sale of hard liquor by the glass in the unincorporated areas of the county. A second would allow stores to sell beer and wine, so-called "package sales," on Sunday between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. The third would allow sale of alcoholic beverages by the glass on Sunday outside city limits from 12:30 p.m. to midnight.

"We've put this out there for the voters to decide," County Commission Chairman Keith Greene said.

Commissioner Jeff Long echoed that.

"Let the voters of Catoosa County decide," said Long, who added that he's received feedback pro and con as he's gone door to door campaigning for re-election.

"There's some that want it and people that don't want it," he said.

The only venue that County Attorney Chad Young could think of that would be affected by Sunday drinks by the glass would by the Colonnade Center near Ringgold, which has catered events. Gas stations are probably the main retailers of package beer and wine sales outside city limits, he said.

The fate of so-called "blue laws" has been in local voters' hands in Georgia since 2011, when the state Legislature opted to let local governments hold referendums to decide the matter. Prior to that, Georgia was one of three states with laws banning all sales of beer and wine on Sundays. The others were Indiana and Connecticut.

Fort Oglethorpe voters had the chance to OK package sales of beer and wine in 2011, but turned it down after churches and other groups rallied in opposition.

The Georgia Winery on Battlefield Parkway near Interstate 75 has the right to have wine tastings on Sunday because of its classification as a farm winery, but it chooses not to, Manager Tara Taymore said.

"We are not open on Sundays. That is the preference of the owner," Taymore said, referring to her mother. "My mom is religious."

Taymore has tried to get her mom to open the winery on Sunday because "that is a huge tourist day," but her attempts have failed.

The winery's label for its bottles features a quote from Ephesians 5:18: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." But new labels with additional verses are in the works, including Ecclesiastes 10:19, which says in part, "Wine makes life merry," Taymore said.

She isn't sure what Catoosa County's voters will decide in November.

"It could go either way," she said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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