TEGA CAY -- Tega Cay residents won't have to drive to Charlotte to buy a 12-pack of beer on Sundays if voters approve a measure planned for the November ballot.
Tega Cay, like Rock Hill, already allows bars and restaurants within city limits to sell alcohol by the drink seven days a week. In November, York County voters will get to decide whether to allow that in the rest of the county. At the same time, Tega Cay residents will be asked to consider whether to allow retail stores the right to sell alcohol to be consumed off premises.
"Right now, our stores can't sell alcohol on Sundays. The (golf course) clubhouse can, but no one else," said Tega Cay City Councilman Larry Harper.
City leaders want to change that.
At its last meeting, the City Council asked City Manager Grant Duffield to begin the process of adding the referendum to the general election ballot. He said it will take about three months to prepare and approve the language for the ballot, which requires a public hearing and two council votes.
Duffield said he should have a draft of the ballot question for the council to consider in January.
It's a question of revenue and convenience, Harper said.
"What's the point of having alcohol on Sundays if you can't sell it in your stores?" he said.
With the city's first commercial growth on its way in Stonecrest, tenants such as Wal-Mart and Petro Express would have an advantage over other retailers because the countywide referendum only deals with bars and restaurants.
That onsite and offsite consumption are two separate issues under state law -- and that the city only dealt with one of them years ago when Tega Cay became one of only a handful of S.C. cities to allow Sunday alcohol sales -- came as a surprise to some on the council.
"We've been allowed to sell liquor at restaurants since the '80s; I was surprised that off-premises wasn't taken care of then," Councilman John Dervay said. "From my standpoint, I thought we didn't allow it because the state wouldn't let us."
He said he thinks residents will support the idea.
"I go up to Harris Teeter on Highway 49 (in North Carolina) at noon on a Sunday, and about half of the people I see there are from Tega Cay buying a 24-pack," he said. "So, obviously, there is a demand for it."
The York County Regional Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position on the Tega Cay plan, President Rob Youngblood said. The group supported Rock Hill's proposal to allow Sunday sales in restaurants last year and is supporting the countywide proposal. He said no one has asked the chamber to address the Tega Cay measure yet.
So far, Keystone Substance Abuse Services, the county's drug and alcohol abuse counseling service provider, has not taken a position on countywide Sunday alcohol sales. Its research into the issue shows no measurable increase in underage drinking by allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcohol one more day each week, according to officials there. However, that may not be the case with grocery and convenience stores, spokeswoman Jane Alleva said.
"There's not a lot of underage sales at restaurants, and they can better handle drunk behavior," she said.
But she said retail sales opens up a new set of potential problems.
"Any time you allow more access, there's more of a chance for abuse," Alleva said.
Keystone has not done any research into that issue, Alleva said.