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Sunday alcohol sales to go to voters
Religion versus business is the debate at city council meeting
Hotel manager Evon Allen addresses the city council about how the referendum could positively impact the local hotel industry. - photo by R. Blair

Sunalc 6

Video of the council meeting.

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The Richmond Hill City Council unanimously approved the request of several local restaurant owners to put the Sunday alcohol issue on a referendum. It will now be up to local voters to decide whether they want to be served alcohol at city restaurants on Sunday.

Molly MacPherson’s owner Daniel Cloutier acted as a spokesman for a group of local restaurant owners. He said Sunday sales will help the economics of both the city and the restaurants.

Cloutier said the referendum should be applicable only to establishments that can show that over 50 percent of their sales is food in order to exclude bars and package stores. He also said they are only asking only for time hours between 12:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.

"All I’m asking is that you make the decision to allow Richmond Hill to make the decision whether or not they want to have Sunday alcohol sales," Cloutier said.

Evon Allen, general manager for local hotel owner Kenny Patel, also spoke in favor of Sunday sales, saying it will help the economics of the local hotel industry as well as preserve sustainable growth here. He said he is speaking on behalf of 11 fellow local hotel executives.

Allen said word travels fast and he is worried that, with the current law in effect, travellers are deterred from booking rooms in Richmond Hill due to this law, and it encourages them to drive a few hours further into Chatham County on Sunday - where alcohol sales are legal.

Allen also raised the point that this is not an ethical issue because local residents who decide to drink on Sunday can purchase it on Saturday to drink the following day.

Pastor Carlton Cooper of Bethel Baptist Church spoke in opposition to a referendum. He said Sunday should be reserved for the Lord and that council needs to consider that as they make their decision.

"I’ve read where a lot of folks have said the churches are going to be opposed to it," Cooper said. "I ask the question ‘what are churches supposed to do?’. Are we supposed to sit around and see things that are detrimental to our community and never open our mouths? ... This is a referendum on respect for God and the Lord’s day."

Mayor Richard Davis said he recognizes that it is the duty of local churches to represent members of their congregation opposed to this referendum "but is our job as public officials to represent everyone."

Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Floyd Hilliard said he spent hours with his son, a Baptist minister, debating this issue.

"Tonight will be a vote on whether or not to allow the people to vote," Hilliard said. "We are elected officials and we have an obligation here because of that. It would be a disservice to the people of this city not to be able vote on this. It would also give us a better idea of what the people in this community want."

Councilperson JoAnn Bickley said she agrees with Hilliard.

"I respect God and I respect Pastor Cooper," Bickley said. "However, we do not represent our personal thoughts, feelings and emotions here. We represent what the people want. The only way to truly give our citizens the opportunity to allow them to make a decision that they’ll want to live with is to let them vote."

Officials anticipate the referendum will be on the November ballot, which will also include the presidential election.

In other business:

- The Montessori Preschool was granted an extension to allow the portable classrooms behind the school for two more years.

- Justine Oakwood at 112 W. Whipporwill Lane in Piercefield Forest subdivision was allowed to operate Full Moon Dog Training out of her home.

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