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County says no to Sunday alcohol sales

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By Lisa King

Once again, the issue of Sunday alcohol sales in the county has been tapped out.

The ordinance, which would have allowed liquor to be sold by the glass in county establishments on Sunday, did not pass a second reading on Tuesday at the meeting of the Shelby County Fiscal Court.

Magistrates were split on the issue, with the vote 3-3. There are seven magistrates, but Allen Ruble recused himself from the vote on the grounds that he was strongly opposed to alcohol consumption.

Also, Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger decided not to cast what would have been a tie-breaking vote.

"It's my prerogative to vote if I want to, but traditionally I leave it up to the magistrates," he said. "That's been my record. I just don't usually get involved."

Cordy Armstrong, Betty Curtsinger and Tony Carriss voted no, and Hubert Pollet, Michael Riggs and Mike Whitehouse voted yes.

Before the vote, the magistrates explained their views on the issue to a crowd of nearly 100 people, most of whom wore yellow stickers proclaiming, "Business equality in Shelby County."

Those wearing stickers were hoping the ordinance would pass, as many of them are affiliated with businesses located in the county which would have been allowed to sell alcohol on Sunday if the magistrates had approved the ordinance.

However, that hope dimmed as the magistrates began speaking.

Armstrong said that "alcohol kills more innocent people than anything else."

"If selling more alcohol makes Shelby County a better place to live, I don't understand that," he said.

He added that he had received 25 phone calls on the topic.

"I had five calls for it, and the rest against it, so I'm going to have to vote against it," he said.

Curtsinger told the audience that she felt her vote had to reflect the wishes of the citizens of her district.

"Sitting here, there are times I represent all of Shelby County, and there are times I represent the people of my district," she said. "The decision I make tonight will be in support of the people of my district."

Carriss said he had been debating back and forth with himself.

"Until I walked in here tonight, I wasn't sure how I was going to vote," he said. "One of the biggest issues I have with it is I don't think we need to start selling beer at the truck stop. That's one of the things that tilted me one way or another."

Pollet said he felt the county should allow Sunday alcohol sales because it's not fair to the businesses in the county to try to compete with those in the city who are allowed to sell it. Also, he added that many businesses want to be annexed into the city so they will be able to sell alcohol on Sunday, and that could mean a loss of revenue for the county in the future.

Whitehouse, like Pollet, said his vote of yes did not mean he was endorsing the sale of alcohol, but rather, promoting equal opportunity for county businesses. He added that economic considerations also played a part in his decision.

"The shape the economy is in today, we need to do everything we can to help the businesses in this county," he said.

Riggs said he felt like the subject of Sunday alcohol sales was not a religious or a moral issue, but "simply a business issue."

"Nobody is going to be beating down the doors to get that first drink," he said. "Also, it won't give county businesses any advantage over anybody else, it would just make them equal to everybody else."

After the vote, the crowd expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome.

"I'm very disappointed that the magistrates chose not to correct this," said John Sobecki, general manager of the Cardinal Club.

Lawren Just, president and CEO of Persimmon Ridge Golf Course, said she was very disappointed and frustrated with the vote.

"City businesses get to serve their customers alcohol seven days a week and we only get to serve ours six days a week. That's not fair."

Sherry Baird said she was not representing a business, but was simply a resident interested in the issue.

"They should rescind alcohol sales in the city," she said.

Bill Wilding, also a resident, said it didn't seem right to him that some businesses should be wet and some should be dry on Sunday.

Had it passed, the ordinance would have been an amendment to an ordinance passed in November 2000 which allowed alcohol to be sold in the county Monday through Saturday. This makes the third time the matter has been brought before the fiscal court. Riggs, who has raised the issue the other times, said after the vote that he does not intend to let the matter die.

"I'm very disappointed that we were not able to pass this again," he said. "As long as I'm here, I'll keep bringing this back up."