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Alcohol changes move closer to a vote
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Effingham County commissioners have approved the first reading of two ordinances that could allow voters to approve Sunday package sales of beer and wine and to pave the way for Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink.

By unanimous votes in each instance, commissioners gave the go-ahead for a referendum on the 2012 presidential preference primary ballot, with voters deciding if they want Sunday package sales of beer and wine between 12:30-11:30 p.m.

“If referendum is approved, it will be effective the date the referendum is passed,” said County Administrator David Crawley.

The current ordinance allows for package sales of beer and wine from Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

The county also currently allows for sales of liquor by the drink from Monday through Saturday. Commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance that will allow a referendum to determine if Sunday sales of liquor, beer and wine by the drink can take place from 12:30 p.m.-midnight, provided the establishments doing so have at least 50 percent of their annual gross sales from food. It also would extend to establishments that have at least 50 percent of annual gross income from rental of rooms for overnight lodging.

Should the two votes pass, the changes would go into effect immediately.

The county, however, cannot allow for the establishment of package stores without a petition, signed by 35 percent of the county’s registered votes, requesting it be placed on a ballot, Crawley explained.

“We cannot allow for a package store without the petition by the public,” he said.