Lexington County residents are likely to get the chance to allow purchases of six-packs of beer and bottles of wine on Sundays as soon as late fall.
A divided County Council gave initial approval Wednesday 4-2 to a Nov. 4 referendum that would let voters end a long-standing ban on such sales.
“Growing up, that (Sunday sales) was an absolute no,” said Councilwoman Debbie Summers of Springdale, a supporter of the step.“Times are different now.”
The ban on Sunday beer and wine sales by the package is the last major restriction on Sunday shopping left in a steadily growing county with strong pockets of appreciation for the Christian day of worship.
Sticking with the ban “is a respect thing,” said Councilman Jim Kinard of Swansea, who opposes repeal. “I can’t change my upbringing.”
Restaurants and bars across the Columbia area – including those in Lexington County – already sell alcoholic drinks with and without meals on Sundays.
But expanding that to permit sales by the package requires voter approval.
The push for change comes from supermarket and convenience store operators who argue piecemeal restrictions in the Midlands are confusing for shoppers and put some outlets at a disadvantage.
Giving the go-ahead to Sunday sales could be the second matter on the fall ballot for county voters to decide.
It would join a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase to pay for selected road improvements and other projects, a referendum that received the final go-ahead Wednesday from council members.
County officials are uncertain if elimination of the ban would apply in 11 municipalities as well as unincorporated areas.
“It’s undetermined yet if council can do it countywide, ” county attorney Jeff Anderson said.
At a minimum, elimination of the ban would apply to unincorporated areas – about 80 percent of the 720-square-mile county. But the change probably would put pressure on some communities to follow suit.
Sunday package sales now are allowed in three towns in the county – Chapin, Irmo and Lexington – as well as in neighboring Columbia and Richland County.
Lexington would be the 10th county in South Carolina to allow Sunday sales of beer and wine by the package if the ban is repealed.
How they voted
Here is how council members – all Republicans – voted on initial approval of the Sunday sales referendum:
FOR: Kent Collins of Lexington, Bobby Keisler of Red Bank, Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo, Debbie Summers of Springdale
AGAINST: Jim Kinard of Swansea, Frank Townsend of Batesburg-Leesville
ABSENT: Bill Banning of West Columbia, Todd Cullum of Cayce, Brad Matthews of St. Andrews.