City residents to vote on Sunday alcohol sales

Polls open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jasper Civic Center

By RON HARRIS,Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 7/8/18

Residents in Jasper have the opportunity Tuesday to express their opinions on whether the city should legalize alcohol sales on Sunday.

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City residents to vote on Sunday alcohol sales

Polls open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jasper Civic Center

Posted

Residents in Jasper have the opportunity Tuesday to express their opinions on whether the city should legalize alcohol sales on Sunday.

A municipal election to decide whether businesses inside the Jasper city limits can sell alcohol on Sunday will be held Tuesday, with polls open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The election is only for residents living in Jasper, and anyone living outside the city who tries to cast a ballot will be turned away at the polls.

New to this municipal election is the fact that all voting will be held at one centralized location. Voters will cast ballots at the Jasper Civic Center located on 19th Street in downtown Jasper. Voters will, however, still cast ballots according to the district they live in.

“We think there are several advantages for doing this,” city clerk Kathy Chambless said at the May 1 city council meeting.

One advantage of using a centralized location for the election, she said, is that it should cut down on any confusion as to where residents cast a ballot. It also may serve as a test case for future elections in the city, Chambless said.

“I’m extremely pleased that the voters in the city will have the opportunity to vote on this,” Mayor David O’Mary said following the April 17 city council meeting where council members set a July 10 date for the election. “There are supporters on both sides of the issue. There are many who think having this could create significant economic development. If this vote is successful, we should know that in the not-too-distant future.”

State Sen. Greg Reed and state Rep. Connie Rowe helped get the bill through the state legislature, which was the first step to putting the issue to a vote in the city.

Across the state, more than 20 local alcohol bills became law in 2018, according to the Alabama Retail Association’s website.

“This issue was a council decision, and our legislative delegation of Sen. Reed and Rep. Rowe supported this council and helped get this local bill in place,” O’Mary previously said. “One of things when you’re elected to office is that you’re sworn to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution says the people have the right to vote (on an issue), and that’s what’s going to happen.”

O’Mary said while the issue may be divisive, each side has an opportunity to make its argument for or against the issue known.

“The people who are for it have the right to support their position, and the people opposed to it have the right to support their position,” he said. 

If the bill passes, the city could see an economic boom. The mayor said property owners adjacent to Interstate 22 and other high traffic areas have told city leaders they have talked with national restaurants wanting to locate in the city. Most have been hesitant to do so because of the lack of alcohol sales on Sundays. 

“They tell us they have pretty firm commitments from eating establishments if it is successful,” O’Mary said. “If that happens, certainly that will be another source of tax revenue for the city, and that’s what we live on.”

O’Mary said there’s no definitive answer as to how much revenue could be generated for the city if the bill passes. “We don’t really have a measuring stick for that,” he said.

A recent meeting of the Alabama League of Municipalities may have provided somewhat of an answer, O’Mary added. “We met with a group of folks from cities the size of Jasper, and pretty much everyone there was from a city that had approved Sunday alcohol sales. They all felt like it had been a nice boost to their city’s revenue.”

Council member Jennifer Williams Smith provided numbers from Pell City — which legalized Sunday alcohol sales in Aug. 2015 — that show that city expected to see a tax revenue increase of more than $145,000 and an additional 98 jobs created when Sunday alcohol sales were approved by voters.

If passed, alcohol sales on Sunday would not be allowed until after noon. State-run liquor stores are closed on Sunday.