Referendums concerning alcohol sales on Sunday will appear on ballots in both York and Lancaster counties Nov. 6. We recommend that voters approve both.
In York County, the referendum asks voters to decide whether to allow off-premise sales of beer and wine at convenience stores and groceries on Sundays. In Lancaster County, voters are asked to allow on-premise sales in restaurants on Sundays.
In 2006, voters in Rock Hill approved on-premise Sunday sales of beer and wine. York County followed suit in 2008. And that same year, Tega Cay voters approved Sunday sales of beer and wine at convenience stores and groceries.
The York County referendum this year would eliminate the last vestige of the so-called blue laws that have barred Sunday alcohol sales for decades. If voters approve the referendum, customers could go to a grocery or convenience store – or pharmacy or big-box store that sells alcohol – on any given Sunday and buy a six-pack or a bottle of wine.
The loosening of the blue laws has occurred in stages. First, voters in York County approved alcohol sales at restaurants. Voters in Lancaster County will decide Nov. 6 whether to do the same thing.
This year, York County voters are being asked to allow customers to buy beer and wine on Sunday to consume somewhere else. Supporters no doubt assume that voters have become comfortable with the idea of serving alcohol on Sunday at restaurants, and the next step should be easy.
We supported allowing alcohol sales in restaurants in both the citywide and countywide referendums. And we think many of the same reasons for supporting those questions apply to Sunday alcohol sales at convenience stores and groceries.
People can buy alcohol locally from those venues six days a week. There is no logical reason to prevent them from doing so on Sunday or any other single day of the week.
If people want to buy beer or wine from a take-out store on Sunday now, they can simply drive across the state line into North Carolina and do so. That, we think, is a small but unnecessary inconvenience.
Likewise, residents of Lancaster County who want beer or wine with their restaurant lunch can drive to Rock Hill or any other restaurant in York County. Again, it’s an unnecessary inconvenience, and in some cases, it requires people to drive a longer distance after they have consumed alcohol with their meal.
Economics also figure into the decision. The Committee of Citizens & Business for York County, which sponsored the referendum, estimates the county would net about $200,000 annually if all of the eligible stores sought licenses to sell alcohol on Sunday. And that figure does not include what York County would collect in increased sales tax revenues.
Lancaster County restaurants also would benefit from selling beer and wine on Sunday. Alcohol traditionally is one of the items with the highest profit margin on the menu. The county also stands a better chance of attracting new chain restaurants if it allows them to sell alcohol on Sunday.
As with previous efforts to eliminate blue laws, it is important to stress that buying alcohol on Sunday should be a matter of personal choice. Nothing in the law requires people to buy alcohol, but people shouldn’t be prevented from doing so simply because of someone else’s personal beliefs.
York County has experienced no surge in traffic accidents or other antisocial behavior on Sundays as a result of relaxing the blue laws. We predict little change if these two questions are approved.
People deserve the right to decide for themselves whether to buy alcohol on Sunday, and we hope voters will support the changes outlined in these referendums.