Easley residents to have say on Sunday alcohol

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Registered voters who live in the city limits of Easley will have another choice to make in the November general election. They’ll get to cast a ballot determining whether the city can allow Sunday alcohol sales.

[cointent_lockedcontent] Easley City Council members voted Monday night on a resolution to allow a referendum on the issue.

Before the vote, resident Billy Edwards urged council to reject the proposal for Sunday alcohol sales.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate to be in church on Sunday and then patronize one of our fine restaurants here in the city of Easley and have to sit by some individuals consuming alcohol,” Edwards said. “I think six out of seven days to purchase alcohol at a restaurant is enough.”

Voters should have a chance to weigh in on the issue, he said.

As council began discussing the resolution, mayor Larry Bagwell assured Edwards that voters would decide the issue — not council. Council only voted on whether or not to move forward with the referendum.

“What we’re going to do is pass an ordinance to let the citizens decide,” Bagwell said. “The city, council and mayor will not decide this.”

Bagwell said he knew there were some misconceptions about what council would be voting on.

“I just wanted to make that clear,” he said.

Giving voters the chance to decide was the right move, council members agreed.

“Any time that you can take it to the citizens and get their input on something as important as this, I think you should do it,” councilman Kent Dykes said. “Let the people decide what’s best for the community.”

Councilman Chris Mann said putting the issue before the voters “is the most democratic thing we can do.”

Councilman Terry Moore said he would be voting no, both on the referendum issue before council and in November.

“I have a strong relationship with my savior, Jesus Christ,” Moore said. “I cannot feel right to vote yes on this action. I will be voting no on this action. I’ll do everything I can to vote no on this action in November.”

Moore said only three businesses had asked for the issue to be placed on the council agenda, but that he’d had numerous phone calls about the issue.

Moore asked how the city would benefit from Sunday sales.

“Now you have six days a week to buy alcoholic beverages, which is a mind-altering drug,” Moore said. “If people want to use that stuff, why can’t they get it on six days?”

Bagwell said he appreciated Moore’s stance.

“I think there’s about six more around here who have a pretty good relation with the man upstairs,” Bagwell said. “But if that’s going to keep us out of Heaven, I don’t see it.”

He said the issue is economically driven.

“We’re losing business from the city of Easley, going to Greenville, going to Clemson,” Bagwell said. “I think we’re the last city of any size in this area that has not passed this law already. When I say ‘we,’ the citizens are the ones who are going to pass it or not pass it.”

Officials with Cedarwood Development, which has invested nearly $100 million in the Easley Town Center development, wrote the city a letter asking for the referendum, Bagwell said.

“People are going to have a say so,” he said. “I’m going to vote to let the people of Easley determine how it’s going to go.”

City administrator Stephen Steese said should the referendum pass, stores, restaurants and nonprofits inside the city limits would be allowed to purchase temporary permits — issued by the S.C. Department of Revenue — allowing them to sell alcohol on Sundays. Liquor stores would remain closed on Sundays, as state law requires.

Buying a permit is voluntary. Businesses not wishing to sell alcohol on Sundays will not be required to purchase a permit.

The question will appear on the general election ballot, Steese said.

“It will not be a separate ballot,” he said.

If voters vote it down, the issue cannot be revisited for four more years, Steese said.

Council voted 6-1, with Moore dissenting, to allow the referendum to move forward.