Voters approve Sunday alcohol sales in city

There were more unanswered questions than answered ones as the election drew to a close on Tuesday; however, one local question looked like it was headed for approval but not without some controversy of its own.

With only three North Augusta precincts outstanding by press time, nearly 70 percent, or 4,609 to 2,103, were in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday in North Augusta. With an affirmative decision, restaurants will be able to apply for a liquor license good for Sundays and can begin serving alcoholic drinks possibly within the next week or so. City Administrator Todd Glover said he had been in conversation with City Attorney Kelly Zier, and they thought the City could begin taking applications for Sunday sales immediately, once the vote is certified. Glover said Zier was checking on whether the City Council has to do anything official before beginning to issue the Sunday liquor licenses, "but we don't think so," said Glover.

The affirmative vote will also allow convenience stores and grocery stores to sell wine and beer on Sundays with a temporary license (but not liquor, which is regulated in state-approved venues and cannot be sold on Sunday by state law).

The city administrator said vendors can purchase a temporary alcohol license by the week or pay for a year at a time.

"Oddly enough," Glover said, "the price for an individual (weekly) license, when multiplied by 52 is less than the cost of a license for the whole year."

Referring to the view that many have suggested that North Augusta will not get high-end restaurants interested in locating in the City without the option of Sunday sales, Mayor Lark Jones said, "I hope this removes what is seen as an impediment."

Not surprised by the vote, Jones opined, "I don't think it will dramatically change things in North Augusta." He noted that, with the current economy, "I've not had any restaurants come to me and say that (not having alcohol on Sunday) is the problem."

Jones also suggested that North Augustans aren't big alcohol consumers, so he wasn't sure what impact the vote will have on the local economy either. But, he concluded, if the option of alcohol on Sunday gets restaurants to take a second look at North Augusta, "we need more restaurants, and we can show them that business can be had here."

Irregularities in balloting discovered during the day raised some concerns when numerous voters who are City residents were given the wrong ballots and denied a chance to vote on the local question regarding alcohol sales. Glover had commented that, if the vote on Sunday sales had been close - either way - that could have been a problem.

County races

One undecided race Tuesday night was the election of an Aiken County treasurer, with 11 write-in candidates and no names on the ballot. That race wasn't expected to be completely counted until Wednesday, according to the Registration and Elections Director Cynthia Holland. On Aiken County's website, she reported that absentee ballots would be counted Tuesday night, and the electronic precinct tallies would be done Wednesday morning.

In North Augusta at least, most of the local races were already decided with several candidates running unopposed for the seats they already held.

Chuck Smith was unopposed for his bid to remain the District 4 representative on Aiken County Council. The same was true for Aiken County Board of Education District 4 incumbent Keith Liner, incumbent S.C. Rep. (District 83) Bill Hixon, S.C. Senate candidate for District 24 Tom Young (who will replace Greg Ryberg, who retired from that post) and U.S. House District 2 Rep. Joe Wilson. (North Augusta was redistricted into Wilson's constituency during the last legislative session.)

Other local races with only one candidate's name on the ballot included Sheriff Michael Hunt, who had write-in opposition, but seemed to be winning handily at press time. Also unopposed were Clerk of Court Liz Godard, Aiken County Council Chair Ronnie Young, Coroner Tim Carlton, Solicitor Strom Thurmond, Registrar of Mesne Conveyance Judith Warner.

Charles Barton was the only name on the ballot for Aiken County Auditor. And while he had write-in opposition from Dan Turno, Barton likewise appeared to be winning the post with ease.

The position of probate judge was contested this year with 24-year incumbent Sue Roe, a Democrat, receiving heavy opposition from Republican newcomer Jane Page Thompson.

For up-to-date information on the election, check online at www.northaugustastar.com or www.aikenstandard.com, or visit The Star's Facebook page.