City asked to OK Sunday Alcohol sales

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UPDATED Correction that no alcohol is sold on Sunday, comments about Walmart sales

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Chuck Strange, owner of Chiefland Billiards, is in a wait and see mode now that he has put in a request before the Chiefland City Commission to consider allowing Sunday alcohol sales.
Strange, who is no relation to Chiefland's most vocal alcohol opponent, Marie Strange, made his request at the commission's Monday meeting at the Chiefland Police Department's meeting room.

On Tuesday, Strange said he will wait and see if Chiefland residents give any support to the proposal. Strange, who is a resident of Hawthorne, said it is up to the residents of Chiefland to decide whether they want Sunday alcohol consumption at businesses like his sports and billiards operation.  
Walmart does an average $30,000 in alcohol sales on Sundays in Palatka, said Strange. He said he made the point to show what Sunday sales could bring to the city.

The Chiefland Walmart is the No. 1 account for beer distributor Bernie Little, said Mayor Teal Pomeroy.

Other sales — on-premise consumption like those at restaurants and bars — are limited by city ordinance to 7 a.m. and midnight on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Thursday and Friday.
State law does allow Sunday sales and there are Sunday sales in the unincorporated areas of the county.  Alcohol has been a topic at the county level with the owner of one of three bars in unincorporated Levy asking that the 7 a.m. to midnight sales be extended to 2 a.m. due to competition from other bars allowed to remain open that late in neighboring counties.
Strange said allowing Sunday sales would bring income to the city and improv employment.
Pomeroy, who has noted in at least one past meeting that the opponents of such sales would overflow any meeting on Sunday sales and warned Strange that it would take two public meetings and votes to amend the city ordinance.
Commissioner Teresa Barron said there was another route — amending the city charter. The issue could go on a city election ballot and the idea of a non-binding referendum was also discussed.
City Attorney Fugate told Strange he would need to get a petition signed by voters equal to 10 percent of the registered voters in the last election to get the issue on the ballot or the commissioners could put it on the ballot. He also advised Strange to hire an attorney to handle the wording of the petition to avoid later legal challenges.
Dr. Keith Richeson asked, “Is there any reason you sell on six days and not seven?”
“The public is tilted toward not selling on Sunday,” Pomeroy replied.
Richeson said restaurants are not locating in the city because of the Sunday restriction. “The economic issues seem to be very prevalent ,” Richeson said noting it could bring the city revenue.
Sylvia McCullar said she felt Sunday sales would tax the resources of the police department, but Pomeroy rebutted that saying Sunday sales are not as taxing as having a Walmart.
Police Chief Robert Douglas said, “If they want to drink on Sunday they can go a half mile out of the city and buy it ...come back in. You're not going to change a thing by not selling it on Sunday.”
Pomeroy said he favored having a public vote on the issue.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said alcohol sales were allowed on Sunday at stores like Walmart and Winn Dixie. It also indicated that the $30,000 in Sunday beer sales was at the Chiefland Walmart. That sales figure was for the Walmart in Palatka.