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Retailer says Florence County voters should have say on sales to stores

August 19, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – Retailers reacted Thursday and Friday to the Florence County Council’s decision to remove a provision that would have allowed Sunday alcohol sales at retail establishments from a ballot question asking voters for their approval of Sunday alcohol sales.

A referendum will be held in the November election on whether to allow Sunday sales at bars and restaurants.

Brent Townsend, who owns Sav-A-Step, a Shell station at the intersection of South Cashua Drive and Knollwood Road, said he felt the decision was “kind of odd.”

“It’s pretty ridiculous, to be honest with you, that if we’re going to allow the people of Florence County to vote, including myself, on something like this, why are we going to allow – whether it be residents of Florence County or visitors of Florence County— to come into Florence County and we’re going to allow them to go to a restaurant and buy alcohol and potentially get on the road and we’re not going to allow them to go to a convenience store and buy alcohol to take home?” Townsend said.

Townsend said that people like to cook out on Sundays with their families and that sometimes those cooking out like to enjoy a beer while doing so.

“I think it’s wrong just to limit it to restaurants and not allow grocery stores and convenience stores,” Townsend said. “I’m sure Walmart would like to be able to sell alcohol on Sundays. I’m sure certain convenience store owners in Florence would like to sell alcohol on Sundays.”

Townsend also discussed the issue of safety. He said he believed it was safer for someone to go to a convenience store or grocery store and get a six-pack of beer to take home rather than consuming alcohol at a bar or restaurant and having to get home.

“I still think that everyone should have a choice in the matter,” Townsend said. “I think that there’s a lot of people in Florence, including many of my customers, who would agree with me. I think it [Sunday alcohol sales at convenience stores] would pass easily.”

Townsend’s view directly contradicts the view held by Councilman James Schofield, who said at Thursday’s meeting that he did not believe the ballot question could pass if it allowed alcohol sales at convenience stores and grocery stores.

“The South Carolina Retail Association fully supports the adoption of an ordinance placing a referendum on the November 2018 election ballot for the voters to consider Sunday Retail Alcohol Sales,” Lindsey Kueffner, executive director of the South Carolina Retail Association, said in a statement sent to the Morning News. “We believe it is important that off-premise retail sales be included in the referendum not only to allow our retail members to be treated equally, but also to give retailers a viable opportunity, that is currently missed, to meet customer demand.”

Kueffner said that not allowing the Sunday sales of alcohol at retail establishments was not reflective of today’s consumer’s preferences. Sunday has become a big shopping day for the American family, she added, because of busy schedules during the week.

“Retail grocers, such as Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Kroger, IGA and Piggly Wiggly, along other retailers such as Walmart and Costco, are solid South Carolina employers throughout the state,” Kueffner said. “Allowing these retail employers a means to offer more variety of product and, in turn, expand employee hours, will result in both more payroll taxes as well as additional tax revenue for the county.”

The county council voted Thursday to remove the provision for retail sales but also voted to go ahead with a ballot question asking voters for their approval of Sunday alcohol sales at bars and restaurants.

The question of Sunday alcohol sales at on-premises locations will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

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