November 5, 2008

York County approves Sunday alcohol sales

York County voters approved a county-wide referendum allowing Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants and bars that serve food.

"It should be great for business and great for York County," said Amy Bovender, managing partner of Six Pence Pub in Fort Mill and an organizer of the recent petition drive. "We are going in the right direction."

The Rev. David Stanford of First Baptist Church in Clover said he opposes Sunday alcohol sales because of the possibility for more domestic abuse and accidents, but he was certain that the referendum would pass.

"It had a huge backing. It only faced opposition from churches with limited funds," Stanford said.

Tuesday's approval does not permit the Sunday purchase of alcohol for off-premise consumption from grocery stores or other outlets.

Restaurants and bars that serve food could begin selling alcohol on Sundays within days of a certified vote, said Adrienne Fairwell, a spokesperson for the S.C. Department of Revenue.

As soon as results of the vote are official, restaurants and bars serving food that already possess liquor licenses may apply for a Sunday alcohol permit, said Fairwell.

After the license is approved, the businesses may sell alcohol. For some, approval can be granted the same day the application is submitted, said Fairwell.

The application fee for a seven-day beer, wine and liquor permit is $3,000.

The referendum's approval comes as another victory in the effort to lift the long-standing ban on Sunday alcohol sales in York County.

In 2006, voters in the city of Rock Hill approved Sunday alcohol sales, with 61 percent voting in favor of the measure -- a margin higher than expected by supporters.

Once the ban was lifted in the city, many Rock Hill restaurant owners said their Sunday business increased, with Sunday becoming the third busiest day of the week, behind Saturday and Friday.

Supporters say the victory will give York County an economic boost -- generating jobs, increasing tax revenues and keeping Sunday business in York County.

Many also believe Sunday alcohol sales will lure new restaurants to York County and bring Sunday business to areas such as Lake Wylie and Fort Mill -- where some restaurant owners say they have lost Sunday business to North Carolina's Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, which serve Sunday alcohol.

York County economic boosters say lifting the ban could increase food and beverage sales by 12 percent, which would mean an additional $1.5 million in revenue.

Those who are opposed to Sunday alcohol sales said they fear the approval will lead to an increase in DUIs and other alcohol- related problems.

Kathy McHenry, a substitute teacher in York, said she voted against the alcohol referendum because of her experience with a drunken driver.

"We were in a drunk-driving accident a few years ago, so I vote against anything alcohol-related," she said.

The news of Tuesday's approval came as a relief to business owners, who say they have lost business because of the ban on Sunday alcohol.

The push to bring Sunday alcohol to York County began two years ago, when organizers began collecting signatures to add the Sunday alcohol question to the election ballot. Last fall, organizers submitted 8,000 signatures to the York County voter registration office, 500 more than required.

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