Starting Sunday, drinks to flow in York County as longtime alcohol ban lifted

Sunday marks the start of a new era in York County. Actually, make that Saturday night.

For the first time, restaurants and bars that sell food also can serve alcohol after the stroke of midnight on Saturday -- thanks to voters who lifted the county's longtime ban on Sunday alcohol sales in a Nov. 4 referendum.

Some establishments are planning to celebrate with parties and drink specials. At T-Bones on the Lake in Lake Wylie, customers are invited to a New Year's Eve-style countdown party.

In Fort Mill's Baxter Village, revelers must wait until Sunday to enjoy beer specials and half-price appetizers at Six Pence Pub. A crew from Fox News Charlotte will do a live broadcast at 5:30 p.m.

"I think I'll have a good turnout, just because my neighborhood is so supportive," said co-owner Amy Bovender. "People have told me, 'I'm coming to have a beer just because I can.'"

The issue earned support from 63 percent of voters, to the delight of restaurateurs who have been trying to compete with Charlotte on what is typically the third-highest revenue day of the week, behind Fridays and Saturdays.

Sixty-one percent of voters in Rock Hill supported lifting a citywide ban in 2006.

The alcohol will flow well beyond York County. Ten other cities and counties in South Carolina held referendums on Nov. 4, with all but one ending in "Yes" votes. The "no" came in the Florence County town of Lake City, pop. 6,665.

Voters in Dorchester and Richland counties and the towns of Florence, Blythewood, Hardeeville, Florence and Mauldin also voted to lift bans either at restaurants or stores, said Tom Sponseller, president of the S.C. Hospitality Association.

In York County, the referendum result applies only to restaurants and bars that serve food.

Sponseller credited the growing influence of suburban-minded newcomers moving to South Carolina from parts of the country where drinking on Sundays isn't considered unusual.

Most Palmetto State residents now live in places where Sunday sales are allowed, the hospitality association reports.

"Public opinion has changed," he said. "People are accustomed to having a glass of wine with their meal. Most of them are coming from areas where government is not as restrictive."

Opposition in York County ran strongest on the rural western side, where voters are generally older and more conservative. They also live farthest from the restaurants that will sell drinks.

Seven of the county's 73 precincts voted against Sunday alcohol sales: Smyrna, Hickory Grove, Filbert, Delphia, Bullock Creek, Clover No. 2 and Bethany.

"We just have different beliefs than the people coming into Rock Hill and Fort Mill," said Kenneth Ruffin of Smyrna. "I suppose we're just not interested in all that. The only thing we're interested in is getting our roads improved."

The state Department of Revenue was unable to provide a complete list of York County restaurants that will take part in Sunday alcohol sales.

Officials said they are overwhelmed trying to keep up requests for permits from across the state.

The "Yes" vote that legalized Sunday alcohol sales in York County restaurants and bars that serve food includes those in the city of York, where voters rejected a similar request in a 2006 referendum. The Nov. 4 vote supercedes that result, the state Department of Revenue said.

Most voters in York chose to lift the ban on Sunday alcohol sales this time. At the city's two main precincts, 1,826 voters supported the Sunday sales, compared with 1,059 who opposed it.