Council OKs Sunday alcohol sales in city
Economics and freedom of choice won out over anti-alcohol sentiment at Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting. The council voted 3-2 in favor of allowing Sunday sales of alcohol in the city.
There were about 30 people in attendance at the meeting, which was an open house at the city's new power plant. Many of those were there to hear the alcohol discussion and the subsequent vote, not to take a first look at the $5.5 million plant.
Of course, there were plenty of impassioned pleas from the anti-alcohol group, citing religious and moral reasons for preventing Sunday alcohol sales. Proponents spoke about the benefits in keeping sales tax in Baldwin that's going to nearby cities where Sunday sales are allowed and wanting the choice for establishments to be able to sell alcohol on Sundays, which is already allowed in bars and taverns.
But, the third option was made by resident Charlene Coates.
"If you do vote in favor of the ordinance, I have a petition to send around," said Coates. "I am still against it."
Steve Larrick, owner of Cool Cat Liquor, spoke for proponents.
"If a person wants to drive 11 or 15 miles away, they can buy alcohol on Sunday," Larrick said. "The other point is, it gives people a choice. That's why we're here. That's what this country was founded on."
Ray Jones, local D.O. and preacher, spoke of religious reasons against the passage.
"Tonight, there's a line drawn," said Jones. "One says we want more alcohol in Baldwin. The other side says we don't want more alcohol. I don't want more alcohol in Baldwin."
Frank Foye, owner of Santa Fe Market where cereal malt beverages could be sold under the new ordinance, also spoke about revenue and choice.
"We are losing tax revenue," said Foye. "We have taverns open in Baldwin on Sunday. Buying a 12 pack of beer before the game isn't so bad. Basically, what I think is we should have the right to choose. I want to choose to sell alcohol on Sunday. The people who are against it can choose not to buy alcohol on Sunday."
There were numerous others who spoke on the subject. One opponent, Patricia Adcock, was vehemently opposed and was worried about children and a loss of Baldwin's small-town atmosphere.
"We didn't use to have liquor stores," said Adcock. "Now we do. What's next, nudey joints?"
With that comment, Mayor Gary Walbridge used his gavel to try and stop the discussion and bring some order to the proceedings. Council members aired their views on the topic, as well.
"Everyone I talked to in the retail business was in favor of it," said Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr. "I don't think it's any different to be able to buy alcohol at Cool Cat Liquor as opposed to one of the bars on Sunday.
"Anything you can do to help our retailers is good," Brecheisen said. "If you want to buy alcohol or beer on Sundays, you can do it. I don't see that this will harm Baldwin City in any way at all."
He then made the motion to pass the ordinance. It was seconded by Council Member Tony Brown.
"I am touched and impressed by the passion displayed tonight," Brown said. "I have listened for logical arguments against it and I haven't heard them. However, we are not in the business of running a church.
"It boils down to economic issues," said Brown. "Let the market decide if it will work or not. Let's go ahead and try this experiment. I'm not convinced the majority is for or against this."
Opponent Mike Callahan, who owns Callahan Liquor with his wife, Joyce, cautioned the council.
"We're pushing people," said Callahan. "We're pushing the people who are against alcohol. They may close the liquor stores down."
Before the vote was made, Council Member Amy Cleavinger acknowledged the varying opinions and that the matter would probably go to a city-wide vote.
"Without a doubt, there will be a petition and it will be brought to a vote and that's great," said Cleavinger. "I don't understand the difference between buying alcohol on Sundays as opposed to Monday or Wednesday."
The 3-2 vote was then cast, with Council Members Nancy Brown and Doyle Jardon voting against the ordinance. It will now have to be published twice in the Signal, which starts the protest period. If a petition isn't mustered, Sunday sales can start 60 days after the second publication of the legal notice.
City Clerk Peggy Nichols said the petition would need 85 signatures from qualified voters.
"They need 85 sign the petition is what they told me," said Nichols. "They are told to get 20 percent more than that in case there are disqualifications. A vote has to be within 45 days of the petition being determined valid.
"With the time period we're in, we have no choice," she said of a possible special election on Sunday sales. "The clock is ticking."