FORT MILL -- Nearly every seat was filled early Sunday afternoon in the bar of the Six Pence Pub in Fort Mill's Baxter Village.
For co-owner Amy Bovender, such a crowd on a Sunday has been a long time in the making.
"Sundays are usually dead," said Bovender, who was among a group of local organizers who began gathering signatures two years ago to get the Sunday alcohol question on the Nov. 4 ballot.
On that day, 63 percent of voters approved lifting the ban, and Sunday was the first time since then that York County restaurants and bars serving food also could sell alcohol.
Proponents argued that the ban on Sunday alcohol sales was driving business to nearby Charlotte, where people who wanted to buy alcohol in restaurants and bars on Sunday could do so. Opponents said they feared Sunday alcohol sales would lead to an increase in drunk driving and domestic violence.
Before the approval of the referendum, Bovender said, she felt the pub shouldn't have been open on Sunday.
"Tables just walked out because they wanted the choice. Sunday is a big football day, and people will go where they can have a beer and watch football," she said.
Sports fans excited
Patrons gathered at the pub Sunday afternoon to catch the Carolina Panthers playing the Detroit Lions.
Baxter Village resident Susan Fuller invited two friends from Charlotte to watch the game.
"We're excited," said Fuller, 48. "We would usually go to Dilworth to watch Panthers games on Sunday."
Mike and Wendy Hudak of Tega Cay said that on Sundays, they, too, would head to a Charlotte bar for a game.
"I like the fact of keeping my money local," said Wendy Hudak, 36. "If you're going to spend money, I think it needs to stay here."
Seated at the bar was one of the pub's regular customers, Mike "Cowboy" Fling of Fort Mill. "I'm so psyched for these people to be able to do this," said Fling, 57, about the ability of the pub owners to serve alcohol on Sundays.
Manager Debra Hooper said the pub increased its staff to accommodate the Sunday crowd.
"We have two working in the bar now and three in the restaurant. Before, we would have two, period," she said.
Some off-duty staffers came into the pub to mark the start of Sunday alcohol sales.
"We're supporting our first Sunday alcohol day," said bartender Leah Carricato, 23. "All of our regulars are here."
Carricato said the pub probably would stay open past its normal 10 p.m. Sunday closing time to accommodate the Sunday night football crowd.
At issue was choice
Across York County, at Strikers Family Sports Center in Rock Hill, Sunday alcohol also flowed. But owner Howard Davis said his support of lifting the ban was more about choice than alcohol.
"We're not trying to build a big alcohol trade," Davis said. "We want to give people the option to purchase beer if they want one and not be told they can't."
Davis said before the Nov. 4 vote to approve Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants and bars, the bowling center had lost revenue. He said the center was denied the opportunity to host many tournaments because bowlers couldn't buy alcohol on Sunday.
Although the lounge area wasn't open, customers were able to buy alcohol at the snack bar. Davis said next Sunday, the lounge will be open.
At 3 p.m. this Sunday, bowlers filled almost every lane. But out of the crowd, only about three people were having beer.
Davis said he though most people in the center weren't even aware that alcohol could be purchased.
Since opening at 10 a.m. Sunday, the center had sold $535 in food and drinks. Of that $535, Davis said, only $57 was from alcohol sales.
"One $2.75 beer generates into $45 in sales. Without that beer, many would make a decision to go to Charlotte. What it does is, it drives the ticket," Davis said.
Dwayne Griffin of Rock Hill, a bowler, said he didn't know the Sunday alcohol sales began on Sunday.
"I asked the manager when we could start having beer and he said today," said Davis, 54.
Davis said the availability of Sunday alcohol will keep him eating in York County more. "We have gone to T-Bones and forgot it was Sunday and left because we couldn't have a beer," he said of the restaurant on the S.C. side of Lake Wylie.