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Sumter voters to decide on Sunday alcohol sales in November

Council passes ordinance to put question on ballot countywide in Sumter

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 7/31/20

Voters will decide in November whether grocery stores and convenience stores in Sumter County should be allowed to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

The third and final reading of an ordinance to add the referendum question to voters' ballots was …

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Sumter voters to decide on Sunday alcohol sales in November

Council passes ordinance to put question on ballot countywide in Sumter

Posted

Voters will decide in November whether grocery stores and convenience stores in Sumter County should be allowed to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

The third and final reading of an ordinance to add the referendum question to voters' ballots was approved 6-1 on Tuesday by Sumter County Council, with Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney in opposition.

The question will be on every voter's ballot on Nov. 3 throughout Sumter County. Approving the referendum would allow alcohol sales in stores seven days a week; currently, only restaurants with a license can sell alcohol on Sundays.

The request was first brought up on May 21 by the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Hardy, president of the networking and business advocacy group, said it was the chamber's job to get this referendum on the ballot because they led the effort to include on-premise Sunday alcohol sales within the City of Sumter in 2014.

"We really felt it was time for it," Hardy said. "The main goal is to keep people in Sumter, but the main goal is to keep people spending their money in Sumter."

Clarendon, Lee, Kershaw and other surrounding counties allow Sunday alcohol sales, and Sumter needed to get on board as an economic competitor, Hardy said.

Today, the only place where Sunday alcohol sales are permitted for retailers in the county is on Shaw Air Force Base, which civilians without base access cannot access.

"We had to be the ones to really push for it," Hardy said. "We're very happy that county council was able to get through this - the first, second and third readings. They understand it's in everybody's best interest to allow the citizens to vote."

Now, it's in the hands of Sumter County voters.

Sumter County Attorney Johnathan Bryan said if the referendum receives more than 50% yes votes and becomes law, it does not have a specific start date or time. It will undergo a two- or three-month-long process for the implementation to take place.

Bryan said Sumter County would notify the South Carolina Department of Revenue, Alcohol Beverage Licensing that the referendum passed; the state agency would have to notify its Information Technology Department to make changes to allow Sumter County merchants with a 6-day off-premises beer and wine license to apply for the 7-day license.

Merchants with a 6-day off-premises beer and wine license would receive notice of their ability to apply for the 7-day license. Then merchants who want the 7-day license would apply for and pay the additional fee.