The referendum deciding the fate of retail packaged alcohol sales on Sundays passed handily in Dawsonville Nov. 8. But two weeks later, would-be customers and even some store employees were confused about when the new law would go into effect.
The approved referendum gave a legal thumbs up to Sunday sales in the Dawsonville city limits between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
The effective date for the new law in Dawsonville, contingent on its passage at the polls last week, was actually determined back in August by the City Council - Nov. 15, 2011.
Documentation of an ordinance or resolution approved by the local governing authority was required in order for the question to be placed on a referendum. The Dawsonville City Council passed an ordinance unanimously on Aug. 1.
In keeping with the local control granted by the state legislature last spring on this issue, cities and counties are free to implement the new law on a date of their choosing. Nov. 15 is the earliest date the council could have chosen for implementation because vote counts could not be certified before then. Elections officials had to give overseas ballots three days beyond Election Day to come in by mail, and, with no mail running on Veterans Day, that made Monday, Nov. 14, the earliest day possible to certify votes.
In Dawsonville, that means the law took effect yesterday and the first legal Sunday sales day will be this Sunday, Nov. 20. Many cities will have to wait for first and second readings at once-a-month council meetings, pushing implementation dates out to January - or beyond.
Ibrahim Akbarshahi, owner of the Dawsonville Exxon Food Mart on Highway 53 just west of downtown Dawsonville, will begin ringing up packaged beer and wine at his store Sunday. Besides offering convenience to his regular customers, he is eager to end the frustration of tourist customers unfamiliar with Georgias more restrictive alcohol laws.
City Liquor of Dawsonville on Highway 53 West will be open Sundays beginning this week, too. Co-owner Russell Marcotte says only time will tell whether being open seven days a week will be profitable. But he believes he may have enough of a competitive edge to give it a try. With the exception of Gainesville, City Liquor is surrounded by cities and counties that have not voted on Sunday sales - yet.
Food Lion grocery store and Kangaroo Express convenience store, both located on Highway 53 E, will each offer Sunday package sales soon, if not this week. But neither was sure at presstime when their Sunday sales start-dates will be. The stores have initiated the internal processes at their North Carolina corporate headquarters for cash registers to be programmed to accept Sunday alcohol sales.
Andy Sam, manager of the BP convenience store on Highway 9 in Dawsonville, has no plans to offer Sunday sales to his customers.