2018-09-05 / Front Page

County OKs early Sunday alcohol sales

By Johnny Whitfield
Courier-Times Editor

Person County commissioners approved a new ordinance allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages before noon on Sundays in a procedural move Tuesday night.

The outcome of Tuesday night’s vote was widely expected after commissioners approved the measure, 4-1, in a vote Aug. 20.

While commissioners approved the new rules in their previous vote, the county’s own rules require that changes to the ordinance must win unanimous approval in a first vote. If that doesn’t happen, the measure can come back to commissioners for a second vote, when only a 3-2 majority is required for passage. The measure passed Tuesday night, but not by the same 4-1 vote cast last month. Commissioner Jimmy Clayton cast the lone dissenting vote during the August meeting, told commissioners he remained opposed to the measure.

But commissioner Gordon Powell, who voted in favor of the motion the first time, cast a vote against the proposed changes Tuesday night.

“After much thought and consideration and community people speaking in opposition of that and requesting that I opposed that vote is essentially what I went on,” Powell said after the meeting.

But the ordinance change did not pass before two members of the public urged commissioners to reverse course.

Charlie Steen, a retired pastor from Timberlake, gave commissioners copies of an article from a medical journal that encouraged abstinence as a way to avoid the dangers of alcohol.

Troy Rust, a pastor from Hurdle Mills, turned to scripture to argue against passage of the measure, citing verses in Ephesians as an argument against the use of alcohol.

“Since this is only about two hours on a Sunday, I believe this is about something else. It’s about greed. This bill will be a failure if there is not greatly increased alcohol sales. What about the safety of the people,” Rust asked.

The ordinance allows alcohol sales to begin at 10 a.m. on Sundays at establishments that are licensed to sell alcohol, including restaurants, hotels, bars and convenience stores. Prior to the change, those sales could not start before noon.

Commissioners won the right to consider the changes last year when the legislature approved a bill giving local governments the right to set earlier times for the start of alcohol sales. The so-called Brunch Bill, was approved at the urging of the state’s restaurant and lodging association and other allied businesses.

But commissioners in Person County didn’t jump on the bandwagon right away as local governments in other communities such as Durham County and Carrboro did.

There is also a move underway to have the matter addressed by Roxboro’s city council.

The county’s action only applies to licensed alcohol sales in the unincorporated portions of Person County.

Roxboro council members debated the idea of adopting similar legislation inside the city limits, but stopped short of that after deciding that it wasn’t worth pursuing because only one establishment had sought the earlier sales times.

City leaders also expressed concerns about allowing the earlier sales in all licensed establishments, preferring to limit sales to restaurants.

In a memo to city council members, Roxboro City Manager Brooks Lockhart confirmed that city leaders can limit sales to restaurants if they chose to adopt a Brunch Bill measure.

But the matter is likely to come back before that body as well.

City staff received a petition with 105 signatures, asking the council to reconsider enactment of a local ordinance allowing the earlier alcohol sales at a future date.

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