Booze Bandwagon Rolls onto Ballot
But neighbors’ Sunday experiences since November should dampen expectations for a surge in Cobb County alcohol sales.
Expect two things when Cobb County voters decide a week from today whether to expand Sunday sales of alcohol:
- The measures will pass.
- Sales of booze won’t change much.
Those are the main lessons voters in Marietta, Powder Springs, Austell and unincorporated Cobb can learn from areas that approved Sunday sales referendums in November.
The only Cobb citizens who don’t get to vote on Sunday sales in next week’s primary are residents of the cities of Kennesaw, Acworth and Smyrna, all of which approved their own referendums Nov. 8.
Under what you could call the lottery effect—all our neighbors are doing it, so we should too—pressure grew for years for Georgia to join most states in allowing Sunday alcohol sales, something only Indiana and Connecticut still ban completely.
Cities large (Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Roswell) and small (Auburn, Hiram, Winder), as well as some counties (Cherokee, Barrow), jumped on the first opportunity to hold referendums on Sunday sales in November.
That shifted the lottery effect from the state level to the local level, leading to the second wave of Sunday-sales referendums March 6.
Almost all northern Georgia jurisdictions that voted in November said yes, ranging from 54.5 percent support in Winder to 91 percent in favor in Decatur. Stores started selling on Sundays between Nov. 13 and Jan. 1.
Closer to home for Cobb voters deciding yea or nay next Tuesday or in early voting this week:
No organized opposition is fighting the referendums in Marietta, Powder Springs, Austell and unincorporated Cobb, and it will be a March Madness-level upset if voters don’t say yes in all four jurisdictions. (People will see only one referendum on a ballot—a city referendum if they live within the city limits or the countywide measure if they live in an unincorporated area.)
For example, 90 percent of Powder Springs respondents in an unscientific Patch poll in November said they would vote yes on Sunday sales.
But don’t look for a spike in alcohol sales once the doors open on Sunday, planned for June 3 in East Cobb, Northeast Cobb, Vinings, Mableton and other unincorporated parts of Cobb.
The store has seen a steady increase in Sunday sales accompanied by a comparable drop in business on Saturdays and Mondays.
“We’re not really seeing any increase in sales,” said Ron Wikle, co-owner of Uncle Jack’s Spirits in Holly Springs. “The sales we normally would do on Saturday night we do on Sunday.”
Basically, Uncle Jack’s is paying the overhead to operate seven days a week to get the same sales it used to make in six days. But Wikle said the store can’t risk closing on Sunday and seeing some of those sales go somewhere else that is open.
Convenience stores and grocery stores, already open seven days a week, don’t have to account for additional overhead, and Zahid Riqbal of Quick Pick Food Mart said the Canton store is seeing more Sunday customers now.
A Publix spokeswoman, however, said sales in Canton are following the same pattern Uncle Jack’s is seeing: the same total spread over seven days instead of six.
Some Woodstock liquor stores, benefiting from being close to Cobb areas that lack Sunday sales, have seen a boost from the seven-day schedule.
“We see more total sales,” Bullock’s Wine & Spirits Warehouse’s Jason Beaulieu said. “On Saturday we come up short on our numbers, but we more than make that up on Sunday.”
Woodstock’s excise tax collections back up what Beaulieu is seeing. The city brought in $9,000 more, a 19.5 percent increase, this January than in January 2011, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis. Wholesalers pay the tax when they restock retailers and restaurants.
City Manager Jeff Moon said the increase in revenue might be enough to hire another police officer, the AJC said.
Dixie Beverage Co. owner Jake Lee, however, expects Woodstock retailers’ good times to stop rolling when customers no longer have to drive across the county line from Cobb.
Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid said that allowing Sunday sales isn’t about money as much as choice and convenience for customers. “For so long customers would pick up a bottle of wine and expect to be able to purchase it along with their other groceries. It was a convenience that they expected since most states allow Sunday alcohol sales.”