Snellville may soon join the number of Georgia cities that plan to put Sunday retail alcohol sales up for a vote by citizens, as the mayor is moving forward with plans to discuss it with council.
Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said Wednesday that he was in favor of not only putting the measure on the upcoming ballot, but also that he hoped it would pass. Oberholtzer met with the city manager today to review the possibility.
The city has already approved selling alcohol by the glass in restaurants last year. This new measure would allow selling alcohol on Sundays inside retail establishments. With the city already having a November election, it would not cost the city additional monies to call for an election for the referendum.
"I'm trying to be proactive on this, instead of reactive," the mayor said. "It's very important that our grocery stores are giving the same advantages as other grocery stores outside the city."
Gwinnett County, for example, can decide to put the measure on the ballot alongside another measure, such as extending the sales tax program for the county school system. Jorge Quintana, a spokesman for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said Wednesday that there are already plans to have a special election for voters to decide whether to extend the district's SPLOST (special-purpose, local-option sales tax) monies.
Nearby Loganville has already decided to put the new Sunday alcohol sales measure on the ballot for November. Several other municipalities, including Cherokee County, Smyrna and Kennesaw are considering it, as well.
This year, state legislators approved a bill allowing local voters to decide whether they want Sunday retail alcohol sales in their communities. Gov. Nathan Deal has said that he would sign the law, but he has not done so yet.
Kelly Kautz, a Snellville councilwoman, said she would support bringing Sunday retail alcohol sales before city voters, though she has "no intentions" of being the one that asks for a referendum.
"I could never argue against giving our Snellville citizens a voice to be heard in a referendum, as long as all the proper procedures are followed," she said. "Our city is just recovering over a long battle with Sunday alcohol sales in restaurants. I do not want to see this issue turn into another political battle that distracts from the urgent matters of the city."
She added "if my colleagues call for a referendum I would have no choice but to support it."
Most of her colleagues, however, are staying mum for the moment, regarding bringing the controversial measure to a vote if Deal should sign a state law allowing so.
"The governor has not yet signed the bill so any comment will be premature," said Barbara Bender, who is running for Snellville mayor. "Also, council has not had an opportunity to discuss this so I'll defer comment until we see what everyone thinks about it."
Councilman Tom Witts also said it was too early for comment, though he knows the city's Loganville neighbor has already decided to go forward.
"The governor has not signed the bill yet, and I've found in my short political career that it's never a good idea to assume anything," he said.
Still, the mayor is moving ahead, and he expects to have the idea put before the council in a work session soon.