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House backs Sunday alcohol sales

Taylor Holland

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Tuscaloosa residents may soon see a change in county laws that ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

The state House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday authorizing a vote on allowing the sale of alcohol on Sundays, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa. Now that the bill has cleared its first hurdle, it will go to Tuscaloosa County’s local legislation committee in the Senate.

More hurdles remain, however. In order to move beyond the local Senate committee, the bill needs one senator’s signature, if the other two decline to sign it. If one of Tuscaloosa’s three senators votes no, the other two would have to sign it.

Vincent Brown, Tuscaloosa’s revenue enforcement manager, said that for the past five years, Tuscaloosa lawmakers have taken bills similar to England’s to session, but that they never made it out.

“Oftentimes, the officials are discussing controversial issues or are filibustering an issue, and the bill gets caught up and is never voted on,” Brown said.

A recent change in state law sparked this most recent effort.

In 2009, Alabama reduced the number of votes needed from 7,000 people to 1,000 people for a city to be allowed to set its own alcoholic beverage referendums.

Not all of Tuscaloosa is currently without alcohol on Sundays. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said it was important to note that Tuscaloosa already allows Sunday alcohol sales at every country club in the city and that opportunity should be expanded to all citizens.

Maddox said that in addition to being equitable, the passing of this bill would afford revenue from tourism for Tuscaloosa.

“This piece of legislation would significantly enhance our tourism industry,” Maddox said. “Today, 22 cities in Alabama, plus every major city, possess the right to seven-day sales, and this is used against our community in recruiting conferences. If we want to dramatically improve our hotel and restaurant industries, this legislation is critical.”

Gil McKee, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa, said that, although he abstains from alcohol altogether, his preference is that no alcohol be sold on Sundays.

“I see Sunday as a special day the Lord says to set aside for his worship,” McKee said. “Surely we could get by with six days of sales, but I do understand where those in favor of the legislation are coming from.”

The bill calls for Tuscaloosa voters to vote on legislation permitting the sale of alcohol on Sundays between noon and 9:30 p.m., except when New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday. Businesses would then be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages until 2 a.m. Monday.

If England’s bill clears the committee, it will go to the full Senate for a vote. If passed there, the city would have 30 days to set a referendum.

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House backs Sunday alcohol sales