Auburn residents may soon vote in a special election referendum on allowing restaurants to begin selling alcohol on Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. as opposed to the current start time of noon.
The Auburn City Council approved a resolution last Wednesday allowing the mayor and city manager to request the opinion of the Alabama Attorney General's Office on the possibility of a special election to vote on earlier alcohol sales as allowed by the "Brunch Bill" signed by Gov. Kay Ivey earlier this year.
Some City Council members and businesses are pushing for a special election later this year or early in 2018 as opposed to a referendum on the 2018 general election ballot. The city is unsure if a special election is allowed under the Brunch Bill.
“We have asked all of the sources that we have if we can hold a special election, and we’ve been told ‘probably not,’” City Manager Jim Buston said at last week’s meeting. “Should the Attorney General interpret the law that we could hold a special election then that would have to come back to the council to approve.”
Director of Public Affairs David Dorton said the “fastest conceivable schedule in terms of getting the Attorney General’s opinion and then scheduling the election probably would put us with a referendum at the end of November.”
Dorton said a more realistic time frame for holding the special election would be in early 2018, assuming it is allowed, and that holding the special election might cost the City between $10,000 and $15,000.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Witten supports earlier alcohol sales and said she’s spoken to several local restaurants that are in favor of it — and no one has yet contacted her to express opposition to it.
“Personally, I would love to see something soon so that if it is confirmed and voters wish to have the Brunch Bill passed then we could make it available for restaurants to implement as quickly as possible,” Witten said.
Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson said he was not personally in favor of the bill, but agreed that it was important for Auburn residents to be able to decide for themselves.
“Any time you got less alcohol consumption you’re going to have less DUIs and less alcohol-related accidents, so I just think it’s better to leave it the way it is," Dawson said. "Two hours of not drinking never hurt anybody."
If the special election for the bill is not allowed, citizens will have to wait until August of 2018 to vote on the issue in the regularly scheduled municipal elections.