South Carolina voters may decide fate of Sunday liquor sales

South Carolina lawmakers are a step closer to approving legislation to allow voters to decide on Sunday liquor sales.

Members of a House judiciary subcommittee voted in favor for a bill Thursday to allow for an ordinance or referendum by local jurisdictions to allow liquor to be sold on Sundays.

The bill says 10 tourist counties that generate at least $1 million in accommodation taxes revenue could qualify for a permit to sell liquor between noon and 7 p.m. Most of those counties would include the high-volume beach resorts and attractions along the state’s coastal regions. Current law prohibits the sale of spirits on Sunday.

Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Gary Clary of Central said the legislation gives people an option and is not suitable for every jurisdiction in the state. Critics said the bill would interrupt a system that has been working in the state for several years.

Republican Rep. John McCravy of Greenwood said people don’t want to see liquor stores open after church to which Democratic Rep. Todd Rutherford responded by quoting a Biblical passage, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

“You seem to be upset by people driving by liquor stores and watching people go in,” the Columbia lawmaker said. “If we are practicing the Christianity we go to hear on Sunday, then we should abide by those essential tenants to allow other people to live and not judge them by just simply going into a store.”

Brian Flynn who is a lobbyist for ABC stores said extending the hours of his clients’ stores would negatively affect small mom and pop liquor retailers who say Sunday sales would not exceed the expense of keeping the store open for an additional day. Joe Mack, who spoke on behalf of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said he did not have a chance to read the bill, but said the more liquor that is served to patrons, the more problems the state will have.

“I think South Carolina has been known as a family friendly state over the years, and I would hate to see it become less family friendly,” Mack said.

Rep. Clary said the bill does not mandate Sunday liquor sales, but would allow voters or their local governments the chance to decide for themselves.