Our View: Municipal leaders move toward Sunday alcohol referendum
The city councils of Lincoln, Sylacauga and Talladega stepped up this week in a joint effort to ask for a referendum on the question of Sunday alcohol sales, a question that may meet adamant opposition from some of their constituents. We applaud them for being willing to take the heat in looking toward the future.

We don’t see their actions as an endorsement of drinking — that’s a personal choice that won’t change.

It’s a recognition of competition. Sunday sales are already available a little farther down the road, it’s been discussed in Pell City, and appears to be on track for a referendum in Calhoun County.

Retail stores may not see much of an increase in sales of alcohol. People have six other days to buy it, and we don’t expect them to increase their intake just because it’s available. But local stores could lose sales to other areas, and that could mean the loss of other retail purchases as well — and the sales tax dollars that goes with them.

Restaurants that serve alcohol are very much interested in Sunday sales. Alcoholic drinks are good for their profit margins, and weekend diners have more leisure time for dining out and having a drink with their meals.

City leaders tell us that when they talk to national chain restaurants about locating in their cities, the first two questions they get are what is your population, and do you have Sunday alcohol sales?

Attracting those kinds of businesses is an important part of helping to grow the retail base in a city, and competition between cities is strong.

The reason they are taking this action now is clear. To get the referendum on the ballot requires action in the state legislature. Talladega County currently has four representatives in the state house and senate who understand the needs of the area. After the next legislative election, there will be eight members of the county’s delegation: four state senators and four house members. That number alone will likely make it more difficult to get the delegation to agree on local bills — and traditionally, if a local bill has not had unanimous support in Montgomery, it had a much tougher time getting passed.

With the new house and senate districts representing competing municipalities, there is a greater chance future legislators could favor one part of their district over another.

So the decision of local leaders was about keeping the playing field level — not about endorsing drinking — and they are also facing a deadline to get it done.

In the final analysis, they’re only asking for a vote to let the people decide the issue.

We commend these municipal leaders for looking ahead to the futures of their communities, and we hope their constituents who disagree will at least try to understand their reasons.

© 2013