Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
Forget the Republican presidential primary. Tuesday's elections also lifted blue laws across a large swath of the Peach State.
Much of the nation's attention on Tuesday was focused on some sort of political race. But in a number of cities and unincorporated areas in Georgia, there was an arguably bigger issue facing voters: booze.
Voters throughout Georgia yesterday ditched their so-called "blue laws" that had prohibited sales of alcohol on Sundays for more than 100 years.
The state had prohibited sales of alcohol on Sundays until a bill passed by the legislature in April and signed by the governor handed over the right to decide on Sunday sales to individual cities and counties. A string of referenda followed in November, including in metropolitan Atlanta, where 51 jurisdictions approved Sunday sales. Of the 127 cities and counties that voted on Sunday sales statewide in November, 105 approved the change.
Yesterday's "Super Tuesday" Republican presidential primary was the first chance for other cities and counties in Georgia to get the Sunday sales question on their ballots, and many of them did. Early poll results indicated that Sunday sales were approved in the cities of Austell, Buford, Conyers, Cumming, Lovejoy, Marietta and Powder Springs, and also Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Henry, and Rockdale counties. In some areas, support for expanded alcohol sales was overwhelming. As this article from the South Cobb Patch notes, 70 percent of the voters in unincorporated Cobb County voted in favor of the rule change.
Not everyone was in favor of the proposed changes, of course. The religious underpinnings of the century-old blue laws are still solid in this southern state. Opposing the rule change all along has been the Georgia Christian Coalition, whose president, Jerry Luquire, has argued against Sunday sales with what he calls the support of "the voters who know Sunday ought to remain a Christian Sabbath."
Luquire has his supporters.
"That's the Lord's day, in my opinion," Sunday school teacher and Forest Park Mayor Corine Deyton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution back in November when her city's voters approved Sunday sales – against her wishes. "If you can't do without alcohol one day a week, there's something bad wrong with you."
Despite such concerns, the voters have spoken – most often in favor of loosening the restrictions.
Rollout of the new rules could take months. Residents in DeKalb County, for instance, will have to wait until May to buy their Sunday handles. In other places, though, the wait for Sunday liquor has been long enough. The city of Buford plans to allow sales of alcohol beginning this Sunday.