A Greenville County restaurant owner turned in a petition with over 9,000 signatures that would require the county council to add a referendum to the November election that would allow voters the chance to decide on Sunday alcohol sales.
David McGraw, owner of Palmetto Ale House on Beacon Drive, is one of the business owners leading the charge.
McGraw said had to present the petition for a referendum with at least 7,500 signatures from registered Greenville County voters by 5 p.m. Monday, in accordance with state law, which states petitions must be submitted 120 days prior to an election.
As of noon Monday, McCraw said they had 7,500 signatures but were working to collect as many more as possible, at least a 1,000, to offset any that may not count. In order to get the referendum on the ballot, only registered voters in Greenville County can sign the petition.
A few minutes before 5, he said he had 9,400 signatures.
McGraw is upset that the Greenville County Council's Committee of the Whole decided to delay a referendum that would have allowed voters to decide in November. Read more about their decision here.
McGraw, an Episcopalian, said in an email to the council that he believes religious discrimination prevented the referendum from moving forward. Below is an excerpt from that email:
"Your basis for denying the people's right to vote is based off of personally held religious beliefs that Sunday is a family day and a day of God and worship. Greenville prides itself on being an international melting pot of citizens with diversity and inclusion. With that, those citizens bring different religious and cultural beliefs than that of a Christian, and even more so, different than that of a Southern Baptist Christian. There are other religious groups and even different cultural groups that hold their sacred/family day on days other than Sunday. This discrimination is two-fold: (1) If denying the right to alcohol sales is based on a "religious/family day," you are discriminating against those whose days of worship and family fall on other days where alcohol is allowed either implying their beliefs aren't sacred or they don't matter; conversely (2) by denying the right to consume or buy alcohol on a Sunday, you are discriminating against the Christians of all denominations when citizens of other religious /cultural beliefs are allowed to buy and consume alcohol on their day of worship and family day. The citizens we've spoken with do not take this lightly and we will be pursuing an action of religious discrimination"
Some Greenville County Council members claimed the reason they didn't want to pursue an alcohol referendum on the ballot this November was to avoid voter confusion. Fred Payne, District 28, said voters will already see a referendum about raising the sales tax to improve roads, so he didn't want to add any others.
"Some of us feel like we're better to have only one resolution on the ballot in November from the county," said Payne.
McCraw said the delay is hurting local businesses.
"For years this has been an issue," McGraw said, "and it's not fair that the county won't let the voters decide for themselves."
If enough signatures are collected, it means the question of Sunday alcohol sales will be added to the ballot for November. It does not mean sales will be legalized, but it will give voters the chance to speak up on the issue.
After the petition was turned in, the county will check the first 500 names on the petition to verify they are citizens of Greenville County. They will then check every 10 signatures after that.
The process is expected to take about two weeks.
For more information on the petition efforts, visit the Voters for Sunday alcohol sales Facebook Page.
In Spartanburg County, the county council passed a first reading of an ordinance that would allow the referendum be added to the November ballot. Click here to read more.
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