Sunday sales referendum gives voters a voice

Published 3:00 am Friday, August 11, 2017

About two months from now, voters in Troy will have the chance to decide if the city should offer Sunday alcohol sales.

The one-item referendum vote is Oct. 10, and absentee voting began this week.

Although Troy city officials have maintained a low-key approach to the referendum, we suspect many voters have strong opinions on both sides of the issue. And we suspect many more are conflicted, as the issue pits the potential for economic growth against deeply held customs and traditions.

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So how do we quantify the potential gain?

That’s the question some voters have asked their elected officials, seeking quantitative support on the potential for economic growth with the addition of Sunday sales.

But, as the mayor aptly explained in Tuesday’s council meeting, most data tied to allowing Sunday alcohol sales in other cities is likely to be anecdotal at best. Tracing percentage increases in sales tax revenues to changes that allow diners to have a beer with their burgers on Sundays while they watch a football game at their favorite eatery isn’t necessarily easy, and there are many variables: Would all the restaurants open on Sunday? Would all opt to sell beer, wine or alcohol? Would sales be limited to certain types of establishments, or only to grocery-type stores? Would allowing Sunday alcohol sales prove to be an enticement for potentially new businesses or restaurants to open in Troy, thus growing the overall economy by hiring staff and generating sales tax revenue?

Those are all the types of decisions that would face the council members if the referendum were approved. And each of those scenarios, along with many more, can affect the potential economic benefits.

In 2014, Oxford, Mississippi, voted to allow Sunday sales of alcohol in restaurants between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. The vote capped a multi-year transition which first allowed sales of beer and light wine for off-premises consumption and then limited restaurant alcohol service on about a dozen Sundays a year, including home football game weekends for the University of Mississippi. And the decision wasn’t made easily or without opposition.

Here in Troy, council members are taking a more proactive approach by allowing the public to have input in the decision through the referendum, which simply asks if you favor the adoption of Act No. 2017-309, which authorizes the sale of alcoholic beverages after 12 p.m. on Sundays in the City of Troy. By giving the citizens a chance to express their opinions via the referendum, city officials hope to better assess the will of the majority and respond in kind.

It’s a bold move and one that gives the public an authoritative voice in the issue.

That’s why it’s critical that voters participate in the referendum, whether at the polls on Oct. 10 or, if you’re unable to cast a vote that day, via absentee balloting now under way.

It’s your chance to speak up; don’t waste it.