Dacula voters barely approve Sunday package liquor sales

Package store liquor sales were approved by Dacula voters by the thinnest of margins — 88 in favor, 87 against, and one disqualified ballot that cast votes both ways.

“Whew,” said Russ Weaver, owner of Dacula Cork and Bottle, the city’s only liquor store and the only business impacted by the vote. “My thing is Dacula won. It’s real simple. If we’re not open on Sunday, these people drive to Hall or Barrow counties. And we’re not so rich that we can afford to send our tax money over there.”

No one interviewed Wednesday — from Weaver, to Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks, who said he remained neutral on the issue, to retiree George Wilson, who was against the idea — said the referendum was particularly divisive for the community. But all were at a loss to explain why the vote was so close over a non-issue.

Low turnout certainly played a role. Only 176 of the city’s 1,230 registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday.

“There was no organized opposition to it at all,” Wilbanks said. “I just wanted people to vote their conscience. The only thing I said was that, since we now have a liquor store, my job is to get all the tax money I can out of it. I guess some people considered that an endorsement.”

The city of 4,500 people last year approved, by nearly a three-to-one margin, a referendum that allowed the city council to award a permit for a liquor store. Voters last year also approved Sunday beer and wine sales.

Wilson, who has lived in Dacula since 1950, said he’s against the Sunday sales because his brother drank himself to death years ago.

“I don’t think they should sell it on Sunday, but they’re gonna get their way,” Wilson said through his truck window outside a Subway sandwich shop. “My brother drank enough for me and him both.”

Al Martin, who has lived in Dacula since 2001, called the prohibition on Sunday liquor sales an “old thought.”

“I think they did that so people wouldn’t come to church drunk,” Martin said. “I call myself a good Christian boy. But it’s not for me to tell them they can’t have it. It’s everybody’s prerogative.”

Dacula Cork and Bottle just opened a 10,000 square foot store last month. Weaver employees eight people and has about $700,000 worth of inventory — 1,500 wines and more than 350 beers. He said Sunday sales is important to his business because, when people have to drive a long distance, they tend to buy more. And that means they’re buying more somewhere else.

“So I lost that sale and another,” Weaver said.

Dacula resident Anthony Wilson told Weaver on Wednesday that his vote was the tiebreaker. Sunday liquor sales may not have divided the community, but the issue exposed a division in his house, Wilson said.

“I’m glad my wife was out of town yesterday, otherwise it would have been a tie,” he said.