Voters to decide on Sunday Sales in Hart County (Part I)

The Hart County Board of Commissioners met on Friday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss and vote on placing a referndum on the May 22 ballot concerning Sunday sales of beer and wine.

After a brief discussion and hearing from members of the public, commissioners did approve placing the referendum on the ballot in May with a unanimous vote.

County Attorney Walter J. Gordon addressed commissioners first, citing the law as well as reading the wording for the proposed referendum.

Pursuant to the state law, this would allow, if the people were to vote for it by a majority, it would change your current code of ordinances, specifically 6.5 which has to do with hours and days of sales, it would take out that language and add this language: Unless specifically provided for by state law, no utility or restaurant shall engage in the sale of malt beverages and wine except between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, and between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Sundays. It shall now permit the sale of alcoholic beverages on Christmas Day or any other day on which state law prohibits the sale,” said Gordon.

According to Gordon, staff must be off the premises of package stores by midnight on weekdays and Saturdays and by 11:30 p.m. on Sundays. Restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores may remain open after those hours but may not sale alcohol outside of the permitted hours. Alcohol is also not allowed to be sold on election day until at least one hour after polls close.

Gordon then gave the specifics about when the referendm would go on a ballot.

This amendment would only take affect if it were approved by a majority of the voters in Hart County voting in a special election which would be held on the same day as the general primaries are held in the State of Georgia this year. My information is that that day is May 22. It seems every year it gets moved up earlier and earlier. We used to always have our primaries in August or July and our general election in November. I do have it on fairly good authority May 22 will be the day of the primaries,” said Gordon.

Gordon said there would be a Democratic primary, a Republican primary and an Independent primary and the two questions will appear on all three ballots.

Gordon then read the two questions.

Every voter in each of those groups would be presented with two questions, and they could answer “yes” or “no” to either or both. No. 1 is, ‘Shall the governing authority of Hart County be authorized to permit the sales by retailers of malt beverages and wine on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.’ That’s basically the afternoon and evening. And then of course it’s to be voted on ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The second question, which would also be voted on ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ says, ‘Shall the governing authority of Hart County be authorized to permit the sale for consumption of beer and wine on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.’”

Gordon then talked about the legal language and requirements of the referendum, including what would need to be done to enact the legislation if approved.

In closing, Gordon stressed the referendm alone did not allow the Sunday sales.

Again, this does not allow Sunday sales of alcohol by package stores or restaurants, but it does allow for a popular vote to be held, and everyone who is a registered voter in Hart County, and who chooses to vote on any ballot on the May 22 primary will have these questions and will be able to express their opinion. Or not,” said Gordon.

This is part one of a three part story to allow WLHR to fully cover this important issue. Part two will air during tomorrow’s news broadcast and will give the commissioners’ point of view on Sunday sales in Hart County.