With the recent passage of the Sunday alcohol sales bill through the legislature, several cities in DeKalb County are deciding whether to let their voters decide the issue in November.
The bill, SB 10, which passed its final hurdle in the House on April 12 with a vote of 127-44, will allow the residents of each county or municipality in the state to approve Sunday alcohol sales by referendum.
Gov. Nathan Deal has yet to sign the bill but has said publicly that, although he wasn’t in favor of Sunday sales, he believed that voters should decide the issue and he would sign it if it came across his desk.
Before the referendum makes its way to the November ballot, it must first be approved by the city council.
The Chamblee City Council has already voted unanimously to put the referendum on the November ballot and Interim City Manager Marc Johnson, who is also police chief, said that the vote in November will show the council where residents lie on the issue.
“It passed unanimously,” Johnson said about the vote to adopt the referendum. “I wouldn’t venture a guess on any election but I would be kind of surprised if [the referendum] didn’t pass,” Johnson said.
The City of Decatur is also expected to vote on it in the near future and the city commission has recommended that the vote be brought up at a council meeting.
“The city commission has asked staff to review the enabling legislation and to make a recommendation to have it come up [in a board meeting] and put a referendum on the November ballot,” said Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss.
Merriss said although she can’t speculate on whether she thinks it would pass if put on the ballot, the city commissioners think that voters have a right to make the choice.
“I never speculate on things like that but it’s certainly something that…the city commission [thinks] the voters should determine,” Merriss said.
Lithonia Mayor Tonya Peterson said that it will be brought up at the city council’s next meeting but she was unsure whether it will make it to the ballot.
Clai Brown, city manager of Avondale Estates, said that he brought it to the council’s attention and the vote is on the agenda for the council’s next meeting.
“I can tell you in the work session they were all in favor, but things could change,” Brown said.
Brown said that he still wasn’t sure about the likelihood of it passing if it made it to the ballot in November but he had talked to several business owners who were in favor of the measure.
“I’ve talked to a few business owners and they want to see it happen and I’ve talked to several residents and they want to see it happen,” Brown said.
Brown said that if it did pass, it would still ultimately be a business’s choice whether it would sell alcohol on Sunday.
“It comes down to the business owners’ [discretion]; the package stores or wine stores… they can make the decision whether or not they want to open their doors on Sunday.
“We’ll see what happens, if the board passes it then it will be up to the voters,” Brown said.
Stone Mountain City Manager Barry Amos explained that there were very few businesses that would be affected by the law and, for this reason, the council had not yet discussed Sunday alcohol sales. He said he didn’t think that it would come up anytime in the near future.
“At this point mayor and council have had no discussion about Sunday sales and I don’t anticipate anything happening,” Amos said.
“We do have Sunday alcohol by the drink on the weekends and we only have two or three convenience stores in the area so it’s not a very large part of our economy.”