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Sunday alcohol sales clears first Chester County hurdle

TNS

Voters in Chester County are closer to getting the chance to vote on Sunday alcohol sales after the County Council gave its initial approval to adding a referendum to the November ballot.

Monday’s vote passed 5-1, with only Councilman Brad Jordan opposed to giving voters the choice for Sunday sales, County Supervisor Shane Stuart said.

Selling alcohol on Sunday has historically been opposed by religious groups and others opposed to drinking, and the Chester push is no exception. At least one group is working on a petition against Sunday sales, Stuart said, while business interests back the change in the law.

If approved, restaurants and bars would be allowed to sell liquor by the drink for on-premises consumption on Sundays, and stores would be allowed to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

The city of Chester approved Sunday alcohol sales in 2014, after neighboring York and Lancaster counties approved it.

Danny Patel, owner of Danny’s Food Mart on S.C. 9 just west of the Chester city limits, said his customers usually go to stores inside the city – just a few hundred yards away – on Sundays because he cannot sell beer then. Patel is among many business owners backing the referendum.

“It is not fair for us,” he said.

Jordan said Tuesday that he voted against the proposal because it would allow stores to sell beer and wine on Sunday. He is not opposed to allowing restaurants to sell liquor by the drink on Sundays, he said, but he has not seen a desire for Sunday store sales among his constituents.

Councilman John Holcombe, the former sheriff who pushed to get the Sunday sales on the ballot, has said that almost 20 businesses, including large retailers and smaller stores, have contacted him in support of the change. Some reports of tax revenue lost by the county’s not having Sunday sales range as high as $50,000 a year.

Jordan said no business owners have contacted him about Sunday sales.

Opponents of Sunday alcohol sales have two more chances to voice their opposition to the County Council, because the council must vote on it three times. A second vote is scheduled for June 20, Stuart said, and a public hearing and final vote could take place July 5.

Some council members have expressed personal opposition to drinking and selling alcohol on Sunday, but they say county residents should have the chance to vote.

Sunday sales has passed most South Carolina counties and municipalities where the voters were given the option, despite organized efforts against it. Both York and Lancaster counties, and the city of Chester, passed Sunday sales referendums by overwhelming voter numbers even with opposition from social and religious groups.

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