Opinion

Let county voters decide on Sunday alcohol sales

Now that Sunday alcohol sales are legal in Rock Hill, we hope residents in the rest of York County will get the chance to vote on the issue, too.

Another push by restaurateurs, bar owners and business leaders is under way to hold a referendum on revoking the county's ban on Sunday alcohol sales. A coalition of Sunday-sales proponents has been circulating a petition that calls for a countywide vote on serving alcohol on Sundays, and supporters say they are close to having the required 7,500 signatures to put the question on the ballot.

Significantly, this effort has the support of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce, which endorses letting the public decide the issue. The chamber took a similar stance regarding the Rock Hill referendum last fall. Although the chamber has not taken an official position on whether or not Sunday sales should be legalized, its endorsement of holding a referendum indicates the interest of the local business community in this issue.

Economic concerns are at the root of this drive for many involved. Many county restaurants would welcome the chance to serve alcohol on Sundays, which would increase sales and give local diners an option other than going to Charlotte if they want alcohol with their Sunday meal.

The Charlotte Knights, who have about 10 more Sunday home games at Knights Stadium off Gold Hill Road, also support lifting the ban. Being able to sell beer at the stadium on Sunday would help attract more fans and enhance the franchise's bottom line.

The experience of Rock Hill, where voters approved Sunday sales by a wide margin last year, may help allay concerns that Sunday sales would have a disruptive effect. While sales have increased at a number of local restaurants as a result of lifting the ban, the change has not resulted in rampant public drunkenness or antisocial behavior. The legalization of Sunday sales also might have been a factor in attracting a number of new restaurants to Rock Hill since the fall referendum.

In this new campaign, Sunday sales proponents have taken steps to avoid problems that have plagued petitioners in the past. Previous campaigns have fallen short of the required number of signatures in part because of an excess of invalid petitions.

This time around, the names of residents who sign petitions will be fed into a database that will reject duplicate names to prevent people from signing twice. This also will make it easier to check names and addresses to ensure they are valid.

We agree that lifting the ban would be good for business throughout the county, helping to increase restaurant patronage on Sunday, generating more local tax revenues and more economic activity. We also think residents should have the choice of ordering alcohol on Sundays if they want. Alcohol already is available six days a week at many local establishments; why outlaw its sale on Sunday?

But even if petitioners succeed in putting a referendum on the ballot, the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion. York voters easily defeated Sunday alcohol sales in a citywide referendum last year.

But it is important, we think, to give county voters the chance to decide this issue. Let the debate continue, and let the voters speak.

IN SUMMARY

Rock Hill's decision to allow Sunday alcohol sales could set example for rest of the county.

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