Alcohol issue on Tuesday ballots

Some huge blank spots on the Sunday sales map are expected to be filled in following a second round of referendums. The decision was turned over to localities through a measure Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law last year lifting the statewide ban.

Several large jurisdictions that held off on November votes — mostly because they didn’t consider the issue worth the cost of a stand-alone election — have tacked the question to Super Tuesday ballots. Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Henry and Rockdale counties could end up entirely wet on Sunday package sales, since all cities within them are either voting or have already approved.

Voters and business owners say they’re eager to shed the blue law and catch up with the early birds.

Gwinnett County resident Jim Desmond said he’ll cast a vote for convenience. It’s too much trouble to drive into Norcross or Lilburn, which legalized seven-day sales last year, and he’s looking forward to the short trip to his nearest package store.

“Come afternoon, you’ve got games on, and I’m ready for a cocktail,” he said.

Paul Pandit, the manager of Atlanta Package in unincorporated DeKalb County, pointed toward a competitor down Buford Highway and inside Atlanta’s city limits, where he says some of his customers are stocking up on Sundays.

“We lose our business on Monday and Saturday,” he said. “I don’t like to be open on Sunday, but if everybody’s open, we have to be open.”

At least 13 metro-area jurisdictions will vote Tuesday: Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties, and the cities of Austell, Buford, Conyers, Cumming, Lovejoy, Marietta and Powder Springs.

Jay Hibbard, vice president of government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said many cities that held off in November, waiting to see how voters would weigh in, are now taking the plunge.

Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins, a former liquor store owner who personally opposes the change, said he wanted the vote done in tandem with unincorporated Cobb. If Austell voters said no in November, the city’s businesses could have wound up disadvantaged after the county voted, he said.

Cobb County had no odd-year November elections and wasn’t willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to open its polls. When a slew of cities launched Sunday sales Nov. 20, east Cobb resident Steve Zinsenheim drove to a Roswell package store, bought some vodka and rum, and posted a celebratory photo on Facebook, with him holding up the bottles in front of the store.

Zinsenheim, who is Jewish, has been incensed by the ban for decades, seeing as how his Sabbath is Saturday.

“I should not have to jump through hoops to satisfy someone else’s religious beliefs,” he said.

But west Cobb resident Don Davis, the owner of the Go Fish Clothing and Jewelry store on the Marietta Square, said he’s leaning toward voting no. Too many people destroy themselves with alcohol, he said, and he doesn’t like the idea of businesses and governments profiting from a social ill.

“But if it carries,” Davis said, “I could care less.”

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