Upstate effort to put Sunday alcohol sales on ballot fails

07/19/2014 12:36 AM

07/19/2014 12:39 AM

The petition started by a local ale house owner to put Sunday alcohol sales on the ballot in Greenville County has failed to get the required number of signatures.

David McCraw, owner of Palmetto Restaurant and Ale House on Pelham Road, headed the drive that needed 7,500 signatures by 5 p.m. July 7 to keep the issue alive in a county where six other municipalities allow alcohol sales in restaurants, bars and some retailers on Sundays.

McCraw took to the streets, taking petition forms to restaurants, convenience stores, even a Greenville Drive baseball game. Volunteers wore black t-shirts that said “Let us vote.”

Within 12 days, the petition garnered 9,750 signatures, McCraw said.

On Friday, McCraw was told that more than 2,500 petition names had been disqualified for various reasons.

Conway Belangia, Greenville County elections director, said some of the names weren’t registered voters, or they were registered in other counties. Other signatures were too messy to read.

Based on the number of dismissed names, Belangia said it was obvious the petition wouldn’t have enough good signatures to let voters decide Nov. 4 if alcohol should be sold in unincorporated areas of the county.

“We knew that it was a possibility that we wouldn’t get enough signatures, but we always had high hopes,” McCraw said.

His effort wasn’t the first.

In 1999, Greenville restaurateur Carl Sobocinski pushed for an unsuccessful countywide referendum in which 58 percent of voters rejected the idea.

Months later, a majority of residents in the city of Greenville voted for Sunday sales, followed in recent years by the cities of Simpsonville, Mauldin, Greer, Fountain Inn and Travelers Rest.

The petition effort came after County Council voted 6-4 to hold off on the referendum for Sunday sales, effectively killing the issue since council wouldn’t have had enough time to move on the required three readings before next month’s deadline for ballot questions.

Councilman Joe Dill told The Greenville News last month that he voted to delay the referendum because alcohol sales ought to be put on the ballot through a citizens petition, not a council vote.

McCraw said he plans on pursuing the issue in the 2016 election.

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