Sunday alcohol sales

Supporters of Sunday alcohol sales in York County apparently were right. There was a pent-up desire in residents to have the choice to buy a drink on Sunday.

The ballot question on Sunday sales passed with ease on Election Day, with 63 percent of voters supporting it. The 55,302 votes in favor of Sunday sales were 1,183 more than GOP presidential candidate John McCain received in the county.

A separate local question that allowed Tega Cay stores to sell alcohol for off-premise consumption also passed overwhelmingly.

The thrust of the campaign to permit Sunday sales in county restaurants and bars that serve food was an economic one. Merchants long have argued that they were losing customers on Sundays because they couldn't offer alcohol with meals or to fans who came to watch NFL football games.

Instead, diners would drive across the state line to go to restaurants in the Charlotte area where Sunday alcohol sales have been legal. Many local restaurant owners have stories about tables of Sunday customers who got up and left after learning they couldn't buy drinks.

But last Sunday, the first Sunday on which alcohol legally could be served throughout York County, the picture was different. York County pubs and restaurants were bustling, and sales that were normally slow on Sunday were heavy.

Restaurant owners are quick to note that they aren't trying simply to increase the trade in alcohol, but rather, to entice more customers. Alcohol sales generate food sales, which drive up overall profits.

That is not simply a theory. Sales have increased in Rock Hill since Sunday alcohol sales were approved in a local referendum in 2006. Now, restaurants in the rest of the county can compete on a level playing field.

Those who worry about safety might be reassured by the fact that Rock Hill police have seen no uptick in drunken driving or alcohol-related accidents resulting from legalized Sunday sales. In fact, it could be argued that those who drink locally reduce their risk because they don't have to drive to and from Charlotte to get a drink on Sundays.

That said, people must drink responsibly wherever they imbibe. Driving while intoxicated is both illegal and dangerous, no matter how close the destination is.

Nonetheless, the risk is no greater on Sundays than it is on other days of the week. The difference now is that people have a choice on Sundays that they didn't have before.

The voters decided -- by a lopsided margin -- that York County should allow that choice. We think voters made the right decision and that it will be a significant shot in the arm for local commerce.

Bustling restaurants seem to bear out the contention that people want Sunday alcohol sales.