City hears passionate support for and against ordinance
For the first time, beer and wine will soon be legally sold in Columbia on Sundays after the Board of Aldermen passed a revised ordinance Tuesday.
A large crowd of both proponents and opponents, many of them pastors, spoke for about 50 minutes before the 3-2 vote.
Ward 1’s Wendell Hammond, Ward 3’s Anna Evans and Alderman-at-Large Edward Hough cast the supporting votes, while Ward 2’s Jason Stringer and Ward 4’s Mike Smith voted against it.
The amended law, which also allows beer and wine sales at certain events at the Columbia Expo Center, is set to go into effect in 30 days. It does not change anything about liquor sales, which are governed separately from beer and wine.
Beer and wine sales have been allowed in the city since 1977 following a referendum vote in 1976. However, the ordinance regulating the sales has always prohibited it on Sundays.
Aldermen have been discussing the issue since at least May when resident Mark Retcho appeared before the board to request Sunday sales.
That led up to Tuesday’s meeting, where Mayor Justin McKenzie said several people on both sides had requested to speak to the board. McKenzie called on local businessman Paul Pounds to speak first as he had asked to be on the agenda.
“I want y’all to think before you vote,” Pounds, a member of First Baptist Church, told the board. “Let’s don’t do things that will take away from Sunday School and church. Let’s let it be a holy day, the Sabbath day. I want y’all to use heavenly wisdom today, not the earthly wisdom that everybody says about money.”
Pounds said Sunday sales could lead to problems in the community.
“I’ve coached and I’ve taught and we try to avoid temptations,” he said. “If you open up the beer, if you open up the liquor, it’s going to be a temptation for people to drink on Sundays when we don’t need that.”
Pounds said he was also opposed to allowing beer to be served at events at the Expo Center. He told the board that in past years, when the center had 90 or more events a year, only two or three people wanted to have any form of alcohol served.
“When we had the contract, we said no alcoholic beverages,” he said. “They turned around and went to the Country Club or other locations.”
Hough and City Attorney Lawrence Hahn spoke with Pounds, clarifying that liquor stores would not be open Sundays, but that only light wine and beer could be sold in stores or served at restaurants.
“I’m still opposed to it being sold on Sundays,” he said. “If you want to do it, let them drink Monday through Saturday. Don’t open the thing up on Sunday. At the Expo Center, don’t let the vendors come in there and sell. That’s the reason we’re here, mayor. We don’t want the liquor, we don’t want the beer, we don’t want the light wine on Sunday and we don’t want it at the Expo Center.”
Gerald Broom, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, then addressed the board, saying he had spoken individually with the mayor and several board members.
“I remember as a 16-year-old boy that I left school one night and I got a half a pint of whiskey and two beers and it sent me away and started me on a trip of alcohol,” he said. “For some reason, God had mercy on me when I was 26 years old and convicted me of my sin. I had enough sense in me and I had enough faith in him and he saved me and changed me radically.”
Broom shared stories of the death of a young man on a motorcycle at the hands of a drunken driver and spoke passionately against the ordinance.
“I hate it, and I don’t want it around,” he said. “I don’t hate the drunk. I love the drunk, and I want to see his ways change. We drank because we wanted that buzz. We liked that high it gave us. I’ll tell you the greatest high, and I get it at least once a week. It’s when I get in my car with my family and we drive down Church Street and we get to Calvary Baptist Church and I get in there and we begin to praise the Lord, singing praises to him and how God begins to bless us. That’s a high brother … I wouldn’t trade that high for the times that I was in the honky tonks drinking beer and dancing on the dance floor that I was doing when I was a sinner.”
Broom then told the board they would be accountable if bad things happened in the city.
“You’re going to be accountable to Christ one day and you’re going to be guilty because you’re making it possible for them to get the stuff on Sunday. This is God’s day. Let’s make it holy, and let’s keep it holy,” he said.
The next speaker came out in support of the ordinance and said it may even allow him the chance to open a business some day. Phillip McDaniel, a micro-brewer, spoke about the possibilities in Columbia with the new ordinance.
“I too care and love our children,” McDaniel said. “I served in God’s church, in the United Methodist Church for a decade. I also happen to love beer. My children have never seen me drunk. They’ve seen me drink probably every week for 15 years or so. I have the potential to open a brew pub, something that is a growing business and a passion of mine. I don’t drink beer to get drunk. I drink it because it goes great with food.”
McDaniel went on to tell about food and beer pairings and how the beer enhanced his enjoyment of food.
“Right now in Columbia you can go down to the liquor store and buy a fifth of Everclear, and it’s 95 percent alcohol and you can buy it on Saturday and if you drink that entire bottle, you’ll go to the emergency room that night with alcohol poisoning. It’s got one purpose,” he said. “What I want and what my business partners want, who own a building downtown, is the opportunity to open a business that will operate and thrive.”
McDaniel cited statistics from TGI Friday’s that he said showed 22 percent of the casual dining chain’s business is on Sundays. He said Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the days when the hospitality and food service industry are the busiest.
“We’re looking for people that want to have some beer with fine food,” he said. “I’m a deeply moral person; you may disagree with that, but I am. I assure you that I don’t want to be associated with people that put drunks out on our roads. A part of my business plan is training people about beer, but also about not over-serving people. That’s not in our best interest, and it’s not in our community’s best interest.”
McDaniel said he could use all sorts of other examples from personal freedoms to tax revenue and even used a quote said to be from Benjamin Franklin, “Beer is proof that God loves us.”
“Those are all bad reasons in my mind,” he said. “The best reason is my passion and my love. I’ve brewed beer for a decade. I’ve won awards with it. It is a beautiful drink. It cleanses your palate because it’s carbonated. Man since the beginning of time has brewed beer, and I love it.”
Retcho also spoke in support of the ordinance, telling the audience that he was “the one who started all of this.”
“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t sell beer and wine on Sunday, and you guys shouldn’t be guilted into voting against it,” he told the board. “The Lord drank wine and even turned water into wine. You can shake your head no, but it says it in the Bible.
“Our town is dying. You can go down any street in town and find houses for sale. The young people are not staying. We need to change the ways of this town. The mayor is doing a good job. Downtown is looking wonderful, but this town needs to change its ways. Thump your Bible and say, this and that and to say that you’re going to go to hell because you drink a beer or wine on Sunday is wrong.”
Retcho said nothing would change by simply changing the ordinance.
“People are still going to drink on Sunday that drink already,” he said. “The only thing the ruling does is that it allows you to go to some restaurant here in town on Sunday and have a drink with your meal, or possibly go to the grocery store and buy a six pack. It doesn’t change anything except for upping the revenue in this city. You can object to it all you want, but you shouldn’t come in her and try to guilt these people into seeing things your way. You should just say, ‘I’m against it,’ or ‘I’m for it.’”
Chuck Terrell, a retired pastor who moved to Columbia recently, said he is against the ordinance and shared a story about him and his wife being hit head-on by a drunk driver in 1979, killing the driver and seriously injuring Terrell.
He said selling on Sunday could lead to dire consequences and that accidents or deaths could occur at the hands of drunk drivers.
“You are responsible for it – that is a fact of life,” Terrell said. “All it takes is one death, and you’ll regret it. You must consider the welfare and safety of our citizens.”
Hough responded to the statements saying that many of the DUI arrests in Marion County were not alcohol related. Citing recent jail docket listings in The Columbian-Progress, he said of 13 DUI arrests, 10 were for DUI – other, which indicates drug usage, and only three were for alcohol.
The Rev. Darel Daniels of Improve Baptist Church also spoke up, saying that it should not be about money for the city. He was then joined by Pastor Shane White of Damascus Road Church in downtown Columbia.
“Most of the people going to these restaurants on Sunday are just getting out of church,” White said. “It is going to benefit a few people, a very small minority of the larger group of people. What are the benefits for the community? You need to think about that. Sure, Jesus drank wine, but he drank it in moderation. Is drinking beer going to send you to hell? No, but it’s not going to do any good to sell beer on Sunday. Leave the Lord’s Day sacred.”
Hough countered and asked about the people who drive to Hattiesburg, Bassfield or Monticello to buy beer on Sundays. “I don’t believe passing the ordinance will make it any more wrong,” he said. “I’ve prayed about this. You can slice it or dice it any way you want.”
The Rev. Tim Parker of New Hope Baptist Church also chimed in, saying that if someone was hurt or killed in an accident, “The blood of that person will be on your hands.”
Bishop James Carney of Woodlawn Church also addressed the board saying that more than 90 percent of the people in Woodlawn’s chemical dependency program began their road to addiction through alcohol.
“I’m 71 years old, and I’ve never had a taste of beer in my mouth,” he said. “It brings a lot of trouble with no real benefit. The majority of people in the city would turn this down I believe.”
After the speakers finished, Hough made the motion to pass the ordinance, which was seconded by Hammond. Aldermen didn’t have any further discussion.
The final ordinance will be published in The Columbian-Progress soon.
Pictured Above: Columbia resident Paul Pounds makes a plea against an ordinance allowing the sale of beer and wine on Sundays during a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday. Several people spoke for and against the issue before the board voted 3-2 to pass the new law. It is scheduled to take effect in 30 days. | Photo by Mark Rogers