Lexington County Council is including 11 municipalities on a countywide referendum to allow purchase of six-packs of beer and bottles of wine on Sundays – even though leaders in some of those towns want to keep the ban.
The decision came Tuesday as council moved one step closer to final approval of putting the question to Lexington County voters on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“To us, it applies countywide” both for unincorporated areas and communities, County Attorney Jeff Anderson said.
Supporters of Sunday sales are happy at the prospect of averting a patchwork of controls in the county.
That decision could be reversed if state revenue officials – who police alcoholic beverage sales – balk. Efforts to reach revenue officials on whether the county’s efforts are permissible were unsuccessful.
The ban on beer and wine sales by the package is the last major restriction on Sunday shopping in a steadily growing county with pockets of strong respect for the Christian day of worship.
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About a sixth of the 720-square-mile county’s population of 273,000 residents live in the 11 municipalities affected.
The notion of adding those towns and cities to the countywide referendum plan produced shrugs instead of protests from leaders of municipalities likely to have been hold-outs.
“We will have some upset people,” Pine Ridge Mayor David Busby said. “If they don’t now purchase alcohol, they’re not going to start because the county says it’s OK.”
Anti-drunken driving advocates are upset with the upcoming referendum, warning it will increase dangers on the road.
“Nothing good is going to come out of this,” Irmo hardware store owner Ronnie Wood said. “Decent people don’t need this.”
The push to end the ban 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.
“We need a fair playing field,” Pitt Stop owner Bob Brandi of Lexington said.
Restaurants and bars across the Columbia area – including those in Lexington County – already sell alcoholic drinks with and without meals on Sundays.
Expanding that to sale by the package requires voter approval.
The decision to add municipalities to Lexington County’s repeal effort is the opposite of what happened in neighboring Richland County. Separate referendums cleared the way for sales to happen there, except for in the towns of Arcadia Lakes and Eastover.
In Lexington County, Sunday package sales now are allowed in three towns – Chapin, Irmo and Lexington.
Cayce has approved its own Nov. 4 referendum on Sunday beer and wine sales to allow it to occur there if the countywide plan fails.
The go-ahead for Sunday sales would join a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase on the ballot in Lexington County that would pay for road improvements and other projects.
It received tentative approval 7-2 Tuesday, with councilmen Jim Kinard of Swansea and Frank Townsend of Batesburg-Leesville opposed.
County election officials warn the proliferation of referendums will mean lengthy waits at the polls and a slow tally.
Lexington would be the 10th county in South Carolina to allow Sunday sale of beer and wine by the package if the ban is repealed.