Cities prepare alcohol referendums

Aragon City Attorney Frank Beacham (left) listens as Mayor Debbie Pittman talks during Thursday’s meeting of the Aragon City Council.

The governing bodies of Rockmart and Aragon are moving forward with plans to ask voters on whether they should expand their alcohol ordinances in an effort to attract new businesses.

Both city councils are looking to place a question on the Nov. 2 ballot to ask whether stores should be permitted to sell distilled spirits inside the city limits. Aragon’s board is also proposing a referendum to ask voters if it should allow Sunday alcohol sales.

The sale of beer, wines, malt beverages, and other alcoholic drinks by the glass is already permitted in both cities.

Members of the Rockmart City Council approved a resolution by a vote of 4-1 at their meeting on June 8 to call for the question of the package sale of distilled spirits to be put on the ballot. Council member Rick Stone was the lone opposing vote.

The Aragon City Council unanimously approved resolutions at its meeting on Thursday, June 17, to place the questions of selling distilled spirits in stores as well as allowing Sunday alcohol sales on the ballot for voters in the city.

The council also has revisions to the city’s code of ordinances that relate to the ballot questions ready but placed them on first reading only as City Attorney Frank Beacham requested more time to look over them.

Aragon Mayor Debbie Pittman echoed the resolutions of both cities in saying why they wanted to put the questions on the ballot — potential economic growth.

By state law, Sunday sales would only be allowed in Aragon from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. if the referendum passes. Several surrounding areas, like Rockmart, already offer Sunday alcohol sales, and Aragon council members made a point of noting that if people didn’t buy alcohol in the city on Sundays they would quickly go elsewhere.

“We’ve had people ask about Sunday sales before, so it was something that we felt we needed to do,” Pittman said. “So we’re trying to attract more businesses.”

This will be the fourth time Aragon has put the question of Sunday sales on the ballot. The last time was in 2015 when the measure lost 42-22. The second time, in 2012, Aragon gave voters the option and it was voted down by just 12 votes. The first time it came up it was defeated by four votes.

The ability of both cities to put forth the question of package sales of distilled spirits is the result of a new Georgia law that was passed in the General Assembly during this past legislative session and was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in May.

Senate Bill 145 authorizes a municipality by resolution to present the question to voters whether they are in favor of package sales of distilled spirits within a municipality instead of requiring a certain percentage of voters to sign a petition asking for the question to be put on the ballot.

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