Columbus voters overwhelmingly approved Sunday package alcohol sales in Muscogee County on Tuesday night.
With all precincts reporting, and advance votes tallied (but not provisionals), yes votes outnumbered no votes, or 37,716-26,778, or 58-42 percent.
No further legal action will be necessary for the sales to become legal, according to City Attorney Clifton Fay. But imbibers will still have to wait a few weeks.
The ordinance that Columbus Council approved in late January to place the referendum on the ballot states that if it is approved, it will go into effect on Saturday, Dec. 1, making Sunday, Dec. 2 the first day sales will be legal, Fay said.
Religious leaders and package store owners opposed the referendum, for different reasons. It was supported by convenience and grocery store organizations.
Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire reiterated that his opposition to the referendum has always been about public safety, not based on religious grounds. He said he was not surprised by the results.
The outcome seemed determined as early as July, he said, so neither the Christian Coalition nor their opposition in the convenience and grocery store industries bothered to enter the fray financially.
“The people wanted it,” Luquire said. “They wanted it on the ballot, and they got it. They did it the American way. They voted the way they wanted it. I just don’t think they realize the danger that they’ve opened up to the young people.”
Not long before the vote, Ralph Smith of Mr. B’s, a midtown package store, said he and most other liquor retailers opposed the referendum because it will increase their costs and probably not their income.
"Just because I'm open seven days a week does not mean that you're going to buy any more, therefore if we're open seven days a week, it doesn't mean that we're going to sell any more," Smith told the Ledger-Enquirer. "But I'm going to have to hire two or three people to work on Sunday. So in essence we have stayed open another day, we've put more labor into this business that we're not going to get any more sales from, so that means either I'm going to pay for it or you're going to pay for it."
Since the General Assembly approved allowing cities and counties to hold Sunday sales referenda, more than 125 have approved the sales while only about 20 have voted it down.