Sunday alcohol sales votes a mixed bag in North Georgia

Sunday alcohol sales votes a mixed bag in North Georgia

November 9th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

A sign reads "Vote Yes" across the street from a sign reading "Vote No for Alcohol."

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should stores be permitted to sell alcohol on Sundays?

CITIES THAT PASSED SUNDAY SALES

* Dalton

* Cohutta

* Lookout Mountain

CITIES THAT DIDN'T PASS SUNDAY SALES

* Tunnel Hill

* Varnell

* Fort Oglethorpe

* Whitfield County

Dalton, Lookout Mountain and Cohutta, Ga., voters approved a measure to sell beer and wine on Sunday, but other cities decided it's not OK to mix suds and the Sabbath.

Voters in Fort Oglethorpe, Tunnel Hill, Varnell and Whitfield County voted down a referendum that would have allowed merchants to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

"We've got good moral people in Fort Oglethorpe," Councilman Johnny "Red" Smith said. "We live in a good part of the country. That tickles me to death."

Statewide in Georgia, dozens of the 120 cities to put alcohol on the ballot passed the referendum.

At least 20 Atlanta-area cities approved Sunday sales including Sandy Springs, Roswell and Atlanta itself. Elsewhere around the state, Macon appeared likely to pass it, but "No" votes were outnumbering the "Yes" votes in Albany.

Before this year, Georgia was one of three states prohibiting Sunday sales. But legislators this spring passed a bill allowing municipalities to vote on whether retailers could sell beer and wine on the Christian Sabbath.

The topic has been hotly debated for years in the Legislature, with religious groups such as the Georgia Christian Coalition and the Georgia Baptist Convention blocking a Sunday sales law.

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue also threatened to veto any bill that passed during his eight-year tenure. Gov. Nathan Deal, who was sworn in January, said that, while he doesn't drink, he thinks cities should be able to decide on the regulations for themselves.

In Fort Oglethorpe, several churches and political leaders came out strongly against the measure. "Vote No" and "Vote Yes" signs dotted rights-of-way through the city.

Smith, one of the more vocal anti-alcohol leaders in Fort Oglethorpe, said the social costs of drinking outweigh any additional revenue for the city.

"This wouldn't have brought in enough taxes to amount to anything," he said.

But Northwest Georgia merchants, especially in communities bordering Tennessee and Alabama, complained they were losing sales because they couldn't sell beer but competitors a few miles away could.

Lookout Mountain Mayor Bill Glasscock said he was "delighted" that the measure passed.

Walker County resident Joseph Stevens was eager to vote on Sunday sales Tuesday evening, but was disappointed when he got to the Rossville city hall and learned it wasn't on the ballot.

"I just saw on the news nobody was voting, so I wanted to come down," said Stevens, who also learned he wasn't registered. "I'm going back home. That's sad."

The effective dates will vary by municipality -- meaning that voters would not necessarily be able to buy alcohol at a grocery or liquor store on the first Sunday after the measure passes in their community.

Staff writer Joy Lukachick and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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