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Sunday sales referendum on hold; most merchants want it

A resolution aimed at allowing citizens to vote on Sunday packaged alcohol sales will likely be discussed at the July 2 meeting of Barnesville city council. ’As a body we have the responsibility of answering the question,’ of whether Sunday sales should be put to a vote, said councilwoman Anne Claxton, who brought the subject up for a second time at the May 7 meeting. This was again done at the request of several convenience store owners in her district, which includes much of commercial Barnesville. In 2012 the Georgia Legislature began allowing local governments to decide to present the question to voters in a referendum. The voters would decide whether Sunday alcohol sales would take place. Such measures have passed in Spalding, Monroe and Pike counties but have not been brought to a vote in Upson County, which is considering pouring sales instead. ’All council members, myself and Mayor Peter Banks have been contacted at least once by merchants and others regarding the question of approving Sunday package sales,’ wrote city manager Kenny Roberts in a May 28 email. ‘For over a year now I’ve responded by referring all inquiries to elected officials. I don’t believe it’s the collective opinion or intention of council to ignore the questions or petitions of those who asked about the matter but that’s what has occurred. At some point council has to respond.’ Claxton spoke to Roberts a week before the May meeting and asked how best to open the discussion so the council could address the matter, he said. ’She emphasized she wasn’t advocating for approval of Sunday sales but wanted to know what we were going to do,’ said Roberts. ‘I suggested she bring it up and see what the other members wanted to do. Her question was, ‘˜what does the council want to do.’ There may be a number of ways to answer but I don’t think ignoring it is an option.’ The matter was discussed when Claxton mentioned it at the Feb. 5 meeting, noting it could bring in revenue. At that meeting, each council member said they had been approached by store owners wanting the referendum to go before voters. However, council took no action. Also, in November 2012, Roberts said, he responded to an inquiry from Stone and copied all council members his response and brief outline of the process of answering the question of how to call for a referendum and allow the vote. Meanwhile, most area retailers are for Sunday sales… In a Herald Gazette poll of managers of Barnesville stores already selling beer, wine or spirits, the overwhelming feeling is that Sunday sales of alcohol would benefit their stores and the tax base. Here are comments: Usha Patel, Reliable Mart: ‘I would love it if we could sell on Sunday. It would definitely help my store and be a great thing for Barnesville.’ Gary Willis, Giant Mart: ‘Our sister store in Pike County can sell alcohol on Sunday, so I am sure we are losing local revenue to them and other counties. Without Sunday sales we can just watch our tax money go up to one county or down to another.’ Sohel Batiwalla, Hot Shot: ‘Sunday sales really would help, but why not a pouring license as well? I have a restaurant that would benefit. Other counties allow pouring seven days a week, and that’s where the Barnesville money goes.’ Brothers Brian and Todd Abernathy, Barnesville Bottle Shop owners: ‘We are not in favor of Sunday sales.’ Hiren Patel of East-West Liquors was out of town and could not be reached by press time. One seller who asked not to be identified pointed out, ‘Lack of Sunday sales hurts Saturday sales too, since everyone knows they can go to another county to buy what they want on Sunday.’

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