Fort Oglethorpe to vote on Sunday alcohol sales

Fort Oglethorpe to vote on Sunday alcohol sales

May 11th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

HOW THEY VOTED

For the referendum:

Earl Gray

Charles Sharrock

Eddie Stinnett

Against the referendum:

Johnnie Smith

Louis Hamm


Cities OK'ing vote

Dalton

Fort Oglethorpe

Garden City

Lilburn

Loganville

Peachtree City

Sources: Atlanta Business Chronicle, Gwinnett Daily Post, Gainesville Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Fort Oglethorpe residents will decide in November whether merchants in town will be allowed to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

City Council members voted 3-2 to put the measure on the ballot as a citywide referendum.

"That's an emotional issue, and the citizens are just going to have to choose," Mayor Lynn Long said.

Earlier this year, Georgia legislators passed a law allowing voters to decide whether stores could sell beer, wine and liquor on Sunday. But city or county leaders still would have to agree to put the question on the ballot.

In Fort Oglethorpe, Councilman Charles Sharrock said he voted for the referendum to give people a voice, not to support the sale of alcohol.

"If I'm going to sit up there and vote against it, then I'm going to deny that citizen the right to vote," he said.

Revenue loss

Officials from Whitfield County said border counties are losing money to Tennessee because residents can drive a few miles north to buy beer on Sunday. Dalton and Whitfield County leaders already have decided to put the referendum on the ballot.

In Tennessee, grocery stores sell beer on Sunday, but wine and liquor are sold only in liquor stores, which are closed on Sunday. In Georgia, one of three states that ban alcohol sales on Sunday, beer and wine are sold in grocery stores.

Fort Oglethorpe Councilman Johnnie Smith said the "dab of money" the city might see from tax revenue is overstated, calling it an "excuse and a cop-out."

"If they want to buy the stuff on Sunday, let them go to Tennessee," Smith said. "If they can't get enough in six days, there's a problem."

The split on the council is reflected across the Peach State.

Two consulting groups, Guided Precision Services and Hicks Evaluation Group, recently conducted a phone survey of Georgians in four cities on Sunday sales. The results showed a wide margin of support in two metro Atlanta cities - Decatur and Dunwoody - where 73 and 72 percent of respondents favored Sunday sales. In Albany and Savannah pollsters found the opposite: 62 percent in Albany and 54 percent in Savannah said they would not support the sales.

No booze fans

In Fort Oglethorpe, even the council members who voted for the referendum made it clear that they would vote against Sunday sales in six months.

Sharrock said he doesn't drink and would vote against Sunday sales.

Long wouldn't say how he would vote in November, but he said that he doesn't drink and nearly lost a loved one because of drinking.

"Have you ever seen beer help anybody do anything that was good?" the mayor asked.

The council members who voted against the referendum had even stronger statements.

"Anything to do with alcohol is destructive," said Smith, a 28-year law enforcement veteran. "I've seen many people destroyed by alcohol in my career."