Following a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Tattnall County and a slew of complaints from business owners and citizens, the City of Reidsville has once again started the process to place Sunday alcohol sales on the election ballot for voters to decide. In the meantime, Sunday sales in the city limits are a no-go.

Didn’t Reidsville voters approve Sunday Sales already??

Reidsville residents approved Sunday sales on the ballot last fall in their regular election

Sign displayed in Reidsville

cycle, but after several months of confusion, it became clear that the wrong code section under Georgia law was placed on the ballot. Essentially, voters approved the wrong ballot language, which means the referendum had to be nullified, or set aside as “faulty,” according to interim City Attorney DuAnn Davis.

Alcohol sales on Sundays for municipalities are governed under O.C.G.A. 3-3-7.

The referendum language presented by the city attorney, approved by the Council, and sent to the Board of Elections was under Section (P) of the code, which addresses dry counties in Georgia, but Tattnall County is a wet county and should have had referendum language from Section (Q).

INCORRECT CODE SECTION – USED IN 2017

CORRECT CODE SECTION IN 2018

Subsection (Q) of the code has different requirements before language can be placed on the ballot for the voters. Of most importance in (Q) is the stipulation that cities and counties cannot exclude ‘distilled spirits’ from package sales if beer and wine are permitted to be sold on Sundays. Davis said the process to approve Sunday sales is much simpler under the correct code section than it is under the section previously sought by former city attorney Scott Brannen.

The civil action suit requesting the referendum election be voided was filed into court on June 8, 2018. Judge Charles Rose signed the order on June 9, 2018, which means the city is now back on a clean slate to begin the referendum process again. Ine interim, Sunday sales are prohibited, which is why signs have been seen around town indicating such. Mayor Sydney Clifton told council and members of the public Monday that he had personally visited business owners in the community to explain the situation.

You can read the Consent Order below.

Reidsville Sunday Sales

Who is responsible for the hiccup?

Councilwoman Lindsay Bennett told fellow council members at the Monday meeting that there was a considerable breakdown in the process last time and mistakes were made. Then City Administrator Kellie Murray drafted the language with former city attorney Scott Brannen of Statesboro.

Bennett asked the city attorney if she had looked into holding Brannen accountable, though Mayor Clifton interjected and said, “It’s hard to get an attorney to sue another attorney.”

“He did something wrong,” Bennett said. “Look at all the trouble we’re having to go through.”

Davis said, “He did wrong in filing the referendum under the wrong subsection, but what happened after that is, the Elections [Board[ didn’t catch it, they looked at what was given them.” Davis said Atlanta didn’t catch the error either.

Going Forward

The Council was presented a draft of the correct language as required by law. Davis said she’s been working with the Georgia Municipal Association as well to ensure that the proper steps are taken.

"We’re taking great pains to build it up correctly and to make sure there are no irregularities and there’s nothing wrong with it,” Davis told the Council on Monday.

The new language will address on-premise pour licenses by the drink for places that serve at least 50% food and for hotels as well as package sales for beer, wine, and distilled spirits from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Sundays.

The city attorney made a recommendation to council members to go ahead an enact the refernedum into law immediately following the election, under the condition that voters once again approve Sunday sales.

The vote to place the new referendums on the ballot in the next election was 3-0, with Councilman Jim Waters absent due to health reasons.

Brenda Smith from the Tattnall County Development Authority was present at the meeting and thanked the council for their efforts in trying to sort out the Sunday sales issue.

The new ballot questions for Sunday sales will be on the ballot in the November 6, 2018 general election.  

You can watch the meeting below. The discussion on Sunday sales begins at the 22:00 minute mark:

Reidsville Council Meeting — Sunday sales discussion and approval of new budget

Posted by All On Georgia – Tattnall on Monday, June 11, 2018

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Jessica Szilagyi
Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as agricultural news. She has a background in Political Science, with a focus in local government, and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. She's a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

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