Enquirer Herald

Sunday alcohol sales on ballots in York, Lancaster counties

The NAACP chapters in York County are opposing a Nov. 6 referendum to allow convenience stores and groceries in the county to sell beer and wine on Sunday.

The chapters are concerned the sales would increase the number of people driving under the influence of alcohol, increase underage drinking, strain law enforcement efforts and increase alcohol abuse among families.

They also claim the referendum is misleading because it does not mention the words “Sunday sales.”

The Committee of Citizens & Business for York County sponsored the referendum, gathering more than 9,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Chet Miller of the committee said the issue is economics, allowing people to buy locally and not have to travel to Charlotte. The committee estimates the county would net about $200,000 annually if all of the eligible stores sought licenses.

That figure does not include what York County would collect in increased sales tax.

The referendum represents the last of several efforts by the committee to remove “Blue Laws” that once restricted Sunday commerce in many parts of the country.

In 2006, Rock Hill voters approved the on-premise sale of beer and wine. In 2008, York County voters approved the on-premise sale of beer and wine, and Tega Cay voters approved the Sunday sales of beer and wine.

‘A less desirable place’

Melvin Poole, president of the Rock Hill chapter of the NAACP, said, “The county will make $200,000 in license fees, that’s less than $1 per resident. It’s hardly enough to cover the cost of alcohol-related tragedies.”

He said if the Committee of Citizens & Business for York County’s goal is to make the county a better place it should put it efforts elsewhere. “Twenty-four hour beer sales make York County a less desirable place.”

Dennis Wilson, president of the western York County chapter of the NAACP, said, more beer and wine sales would result in more disruption, “more tragedy connected with drinking.”

The NAACP is trying to get its message out via emails and through various churches.

The Rev. Mike O’Dell of the York County Baptist Association said the association has not taken a position on the referendum, but may discuss it at Sunday’s session. He said if pastors choose to speak on the issue, they will speak against the referendum.

York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said in a release his department “will enforce the laws that people decide they want to have and if the people vote for Sunday sales that it is their choice”

“I agree with the people that think we can go one day without it but on the other hand I must think of the number of people that (may already being drinking) take to the roads and drive to Charlotte and back to buy alcohol and that local sales might help cut down on the amount of time these folks are on the road under the influence.”

Lancaster County referendum

Lancaster County has a referendum on the ballot in November to allow on-premise sales at restaurants. If approved, Lancaster would become the 11th county in the state to pass a local-option referendum. Thirty-seven cities and towns have either local-option on-premise sales or Sunday beer and wine, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Miller and Elissa Bovet, one of the organizers of the Lancaster referendum, agree the language on the ballot can be confusing, but that is what required by law.

Boyet said organizers in Lancaster also have been touting the economic benefits. She said the economic gain is difficult to predict because she doesn’t know how many restaurants will seek a permit which cost $3,000.

The Lancaster committee collected more than 4,700 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. If the referendum fails, Lancaster County will have to wait another four years before it can be reconsidered, she said.

Boyet said the referendum is about attracting more restaurants to Lancaster County, allowing those already in the county to open on Sunday and about creating more jobs.

She said it is the responsibility of the restaurants to check identification to make sure patrons are old enough to drink and to not serve patrons who may appear intoxicated.