Beer vote brewing
Mayor seeks referendum on off-premise Sunday alcohol sales

By Russ Corey
SHEFFIELD — Some City Council members view Mayor Ian Sanford’s request for a referendum on off-premise Sunday alcohol sales as an economic issue, while one believes six days of alcohol sales are sufficient.
Sanford informed the council of his intentions Tuesday during a special called meeting and work session.
He will ask the council to vote the issue up or down during Monday’s City Council meeting.
“There’s some money we’re missing out on there,” Sanford said, referring to additional tax revenue he believes the city would receive if it allowed retailers to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays for off-premises consumption.
Sheffield is the only city in Colbert County that allows alcohol to be served in restaurants on Sundays. Florence in Lauderdale County allows on-premise Sunday alcohol sales, but not for off-premises consumption.
“If it’s voted down, that will be the end of it,” Sanford told council members. “If it’s voted up, we will pursue a referendum.”
If the council supports Sanford’s request, a referendum will be scheduled to allow Sheffield residents to decide if they want off-premise alcohol sales on Sundays.
Sanford noted Sheffield residents voted in favor of a measure that would have legalized Sunday sales, for both off- and on-premise consumption, during a countywide referendum in 2005. That referendum failed, but Sheffield voters supported the measure by a vote of 1,042 to 899.
In 2007, Sheffield residents voted to allow Sunday on-premises sales.
Councilman Steve Stanley said he will support the mayor’s request for a referendum. Stanley said he’s been a proponent of off-premise Sunday sales for a long time.
“It’s another revenue source,” Stanley said. “A lack of revenue is Sheffield’s biggest problem. We need to find sources of revenue wherever we can.”

Not uncommon

Stanley said Sunday sales are not uncommon in other states and in Alabama cities such as Huntsville, Birmingham, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Councilman Ronnie Wicks said he “would probably vote for it.”
“It’s already in the restaurants,” Wicks said. “It’s not like we don’t already have Sunday sales. Anything we can do to generate more revenue.”
Councilwoman Mary Stevens said she would support the referendum and off-premise sales, so long as they start “anytime after church.”
“I think it will be a good idea,” Stevens said. “I think it would bring in more revenue.”
Councilman Gary Scales, who opposed on-premises Sunday sales, said he would also vote against allowing off-premise Sunday alcohol sales.
“I don’t want my hometown to be known as the city where everybody can find whatever they need alcohol-wise on Sunday,” Scales said.

City’s stigma

He recalled a time in the 1950s and 1960s when Sheffield had a stigma as a city where anything goes.
“People have six days to buy it. Why do they need Sunday?” he asked. “You can sit down and have a drink on-premises as long as you stay in a restaurant. I would be against it.”
Councilman Steve Nix said he wants to know more about the issue before he votes.
“To be honest, I’m kind of straddling the fence on it,” Nix said. “I want to put some more thought into it. If we had to vote this afternoon, I really don’t know which way I’d vote. I’m open to listening.”
Nix said he understands off-premise Sunday sales should provide the city with additional revenue, but he also sees Scales’ point.
“If you want to drink something, we have restaurants in town,” Nix said. “If you really want it and you know you’re going to drink on Sunday, buy it on Saturday.”
One concern expressed by Stanley was the cost of a referendum.
“It’s not inexpensive to put on a referendum,” Stanley said. “I’m a little concerned what it would cost us if we decided to hold a referendum for just that issue.”
Stanley said a single-issue referendum could cost the city $16,000-$20,000.
If the measure is approved, the council could wait until the next local election, which will be the 2014 midterm elections.
The council work session begins at 5 p.m. in the council meeting room on the second floor of City Hall.
The business portion of the meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium.