More voters ditch blue law. Now, the waiting

Early poll results showed Sunday package sales approved by voters in Austell, Buford, Cumming and Lovejoy, as well as DeKalb and Henry Counties. Sunday sales were leading comfortably in other Atlanta-area jurisdictions that tacked referendums to Super Tuesday ballots. The yays appeared to have it in Cobb, Forsyth, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties, as well as in the cities of Conyers, Marietta and Powder Springs.

Peter Bodycomb, a Democratic voter from east Cobb, said he went to the polls Tuesday just to cast a vote to legalize seven days of beer, wine and liquor sales.

"I just object to authorities basically throwing religious beliefs on us," he said. "This is supposed to be a free country."

But if the change passes, it will be an incomplete victory. Shoppers in the largest areas voting Tuesday will have long waits to enjoy their new freedoms, much longer than their neighbors did when they approved Sunday sales in November.

Both Cobb and Gwinnett will make businesses wait until June 1 – almost three months away.

Officials in those counties say political leaders and staffers need time to run required legal ads, hold public hearings, decide whether to charge additional fees, change alcohol ordinances, notify businesses of new rules and process hundreds of new license applications.

Cobb Community Development Director Rob Hosack said the schedule will give the county a full month to send out 300-plus notices to businesses, then process applications so they can all start at once and no one has an edge over another.

DeKalb sales won’t start until May 1. Spokesman Burke Brennan said the county won't require new licenses or fees, but the two-month wait will give staff about six weeks to notify businesses after election results are certified.

“For them to make us wait until May 1 makes no sense at all,” said Greg Wilson, owner of Smoke Rise Bottle Shoppe on Lilburn-Stone Mountain Road.

Wilson, who is vice president of the Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association, attributes a 15 percent drop in sales this year to shoppers heading to nearby Lilburn and Decatur. Super Bowl week, he said, sales were down 20 percent.

"I guess they don't need the revenue," he said of the county. "But they can raise everybody's taxes."

Other counties and cities have moved much faster.

Eighteen of the roughly 50 metro jurisdictions that held referendums on Nov. 8 got started two Sundays later, on Nov. 20, including Sandy Springs, Roswell, Snellville and Woodstock. Cherokee County, which also had to amend its ordinance and process new licenses, started on Dec. 11.

This go-around, Buford expects to start this coming weekend. Marietta and Forsyth County will start March 18 and Rockdale will start April 1.

David Hauser, of east Cobb, would rather the liquor shelves stay off limits on Sundays.

"I think it's a day to spend with your family, a day of reflection," he said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.