LEESBURG — There was a greal deal of discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Lee County Board of Commissioners over the decision to allow county voters to choose whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales.
Commissioner John Wheaton expressed concern over the possibility.
“I’m uncomfortable with alcohol on Sundays,” Wheaton said. “After being in the court for 32 years and dealing with people with alcohol problems and drug problems, DUIs ... I know where so many DUIs end up.”
Although Wheaton expressed his fears over the issue, he still ultimately voted for it.
The board discussed allowing sales of beer and wine on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and amending the hours of sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption in a restaurant licensed to sell alcohol from 11 a.m. to midnight rather than 12:30 p.m. to midnight. The vote to allow citizens to decide for both was unanimous.
“I just left it alone,” Wheaton said. “I voiced my opinion, but it’s up to the voters of this county. I can understand the economic benefits from it.”
Commissioner Rick Muggridge was the one who originally brought the idea to the board.
“I’m not trying to make a statement on morality,” Muggridge said. “I know that alcohol abuse is an issue in our community, and I’m concerned about that just like others.
“The reality is, our community continues to change, and while Sunday is my day for worship, and I do go to church every Sunday, it’s not everybody’s. Lots of people want to buy alcoholic beverages on Sunday. It’s not as if they can’t. It’s not as if they can’t drive to Terrell County on Sunday and buy (alcohol). They do.”
Muggridge and ultimately the other commissioners said they decided to bring the issue up in order to become a more business-friendly community. Chairman Billy Mathis explained that many large-scale businesses had chosen not to come to the county or expressed concern over not being able to have brunch alcohol sales on Sunday.
“These businesses are so sophisticated,” Muggridge said. “They’ve got this checklist and this algorithm that they need. One of those things (they want) is brunch sales. We just want to be as business-friendly as we possibly can, or at least that’s the spirit of the board.”
Lee voters can expect to see both the sale of package beer and wine sales on Sunday and the rollback of alcohol for consumption sales on Sunday on the ballot in November.
“We hate to see dollars leave our community, and so it will be up to the voter,s” Muggridge said. “If the voters want it, they’ll have that opportunity.”