Package stores: No Sunday sales

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The marquee out front says it all -- "VOTE NO Sunday Sales."

The odd part is that this particular marquee is not at a church. It's located in front of The Warehouse Package Store on Pine Avenue, one of the largest liquor, wine and beer stores in the city.

"I'm against Sunday sales not for moral reasons, but for business reasons," Warehouse manager Louis Bernard said earlier this week. "I work seven days a week anyway and don't know how I could squeeze an eighth day out of it. My people also need a day off and I don't think we'd do enough business to justify opening on Sundays."

In May, the Albany City Commission voted 5-2 to ask the Dougherty County Board of Elections to place a referendum on November's ballot on whether beer, wine and liquor can be sold in package between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. at stores within the city limits.

"I don't drink alcohol, but it's an issue I think should be put to the voters," Mayor Pro Tem Roger Marietta said after the vote. "In fact, I may end up being like Gov. (Nathan) Deal and voting against it, but I think people should have the opportunity."

"I don't drink. I'm a Christian and I don't believe people should drink on the Sabbath, but I feel strongly that people should have the right to vote and that this referendum should be called," Ward II Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard said.

"I do drink alcohol and I think the people should be allowed to vote on the matter," Mayor Willie Adams said. "Unless I'm mistaken, God's first major miracle was turning water to wine. And I drink wine. So let's move the issue on."

In addition to Bernard, The Herald spoke with four other package store owners or managers. Just one owner, The Winery's Ngan Kiem, was in favor of Sunday Sales.

"I think people should have the freedom of choice," Kiem said. "Put it to a vote and let the people choose. I would like to open on Sundays. It would give me the opportunity to make more money."

Lighthouse Package store manager Bob Mendpara, however, is adamantly opposed to the measure.

"I am absolutely, 100 percent against Sunday sales," Mendpara said. "I don't think selling on Sunday would greatly change our sales numbers and would lead to increased labor costs."

National Package Store owner George Brown agrees, but for different reasons.

"I hope the measure does not pass," Brown said. "I'm a church-goer and a deacon at Mt. Zion. To me this is not about money, but Sunday is a day of rest for our employees and I'd hate to see them lose that."

Brown, however, did not come right out and say he would close his business on Sundays if the referendum passes.

"That's a decision I will make at that time," Brown said. "Just because I say I'm not interested in opening on Sundays doesn't mean I wouldn't. But right not I have no plans to open on Sundays."

Ace's Liquor Store owner Alvin Adams has already made up his mind about opening on Sunday.

"I will not open Sunday no matter what happens in November," he said. "We don't want the extra work. We already work six days a week and don't want to work seven. The way I figure it is if you don't make enough money at your store in six days, a seventh day isn't going to help that much anyway."

Adams said that if the measure passes, the major beneficiaries will be grocery and convenience stores who are already open and staffed on Sundays.

"I don't think that's fair, but it's just business," he said.