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Morrow alcohol vote appears likely

No decision on referendum date, however

— Convenience store owners keep asking Morrow Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke about Sunday alcohol sales in the city, according to the mayor.

With the passage of a referendum on allowing Sunday sales of beer and wine in unincorporated parts of Clayton County last month, Morrow became the only place in the county still clinging to the old blue law. Residents in the other cities either voted to OK Sunday alcohol sales during referendums a year ago, or in special elections earlier this year.

However, Morrow has been quiet on the issue until the last few weeks.

“Every where I go in the city, they are asking me ‘Why can’t we have Sunday [alcohol] sales?’ ” Burke said. “If there’s tax dollars out there to be had, we just need to go after every dollar we can get.”

It looks like Morrow residents may get to join their brethren across the county and vote on Sunday alcohol sales next year. Burke has put the issue on the table and the City Council at least appeared to give their consensus approval of a referendum during discussions held at a work session Monday.

The question that still remains is when will a referendum take place and the City Council will have to make that decision in the coming weeks.

City Manager Jeff Eady recommended the city wait until next November, when the city can avoid the cost of a special election by holding the referendum as part of the municipal elections. Burke said the approximately $2,500 cost of holding a special election shouldn’t be a deterrent from holding a vote sooner.

“It’s only a couple thousand bucks,” the mayor said.

Sales of package alcohol and hard liquor on Sundays was banned in Georgia for decades, even though groups had repeatedly called for the ban to be lifted over the years. The opposition finally began to thaw when Gov. Nathan Deal came into office last year. He agreed to sign legislation that turned the decision on whether alcohol should be sold on Sundays over to local communities through referendums.

Under state law, the sales of packaged alcohol on Sunday can only be allowed from 12:30 p.m., until 11:30 p.m.

Many communities, including five of Clayton County’s cities, quickly jumped at the chance and scheduled alcohol referendums for the November 2011 municipal elections. The issue passed in each city where a referendum was held. Because of a scheduling error, Lovejoy had to wait until this past spring to hold its vote, but it passed there as well.

If Morrow residents approve Sunday alcohol sales in their city, it will mean packaged alcohol will be available for purchase in all parts of Clayton County. That is an attribute some counties — including neighboring Henry County — can already boast.

However, not every Georgia community that held an alcohol sales referendum has approved the issue. Sunday alcohol sales has been rejected by voters in some cities across the state, including Albany, Brunswick, Palmetto and Waycross.