Lee Caine said he started working at what was, at the time, the only liquor store in Calhoun County on the corner of Eighth and Noble streets in 1962, one year after the city had legalized alcohol sales.
“Every day, people would line up, outside even,” Caine said. “They’d come from Pell City, Talladega, Heflin, all over. You had to, or deal with the bootleggers.”
Draft sales at bars and restaurants wouldn’t come until much later, but establishments in Anniston hope if the City Council can get Sunday sales legalized, the Model City will once again be the hotspot for booze — for at least one day a week.
Whether Sunday sales come to Anniston will depend on the passage of state legislation that could give the City Council power to approve the law, ostensibly to boost ecotourism.
County officials said there hasn’t been much discussion of making the alcohol business a seven-day enterprise outside of Anniston, but if the city goes wet on Sundays, history indicates it might not be too long before the rest of Calhoun County follows suit.
Pinpointing just when sales of alcohol on any day of the week became legal in Calhoun County is something of a tricky issue, as a host of state laws governing sales came and went over the years. The Star’s archives indicate the county voted in a referendum to go wet by a narrow margin in 1961, but cities still had to host individual referendums to permit sales. So while liquor might have poured legally in the 1960s in Anniston, it took a little longer to reach the rest of the county.
According to The Star’s archives, in 1976 Jacksonville voted for legal alcohol sales — 15 years after the county initially went wet.
But restaurant owners in Oxford hope it doesn’t take anywhere near that long this time to potentially catch up to the county seat.
“There’s been some contention among restaurant owners in Oxford for some time to get Sunday sales,” said Terry Phillis Sr., manager at Mellow Mushroom in Oxford. “We get a pretty decent crowd on Sundays and there’s almost always a complaint from someone who’s not from the area, because we’re right on the interstate, ‘Well, why don’t you have Sunday sales?’ You can’t eat pizza without a beer.’”
But it’s not just the larger municipalities in the county that could benefit from Sunday alcohol sales. Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis said he’s interested in exploring the possibility of trying to get the Legislature’s OK to let his City Council decide on Sunday sales for the city of about 2,500 people.
“It’s one of those things that are like lottery or gambling, it’s going to be 50-50,” he said. “Half the people are going to hate it, half the people are going to love it.”
But from a business perspective, Willis said the city would love to get any tax revenue it can by expanding sales, and nothing would benefit more from Sunday sales than Heroes Bar and Grill, the only restaurant in town.
“The reason we’re closed on Sundays right now is because we can’t sell beer,” said owner Marc Spaulding. “Sundays are when all the big sporting events are on, and people want to go someplace and drink beer.”
Spaulding said it’s been his hope for a long time that alcohol sales on Sunday would become the norm statewide. But that may still be a long way off. Although Alabama is slowly adjusting to life after Prohibition, Sunday sales are still a rarity outside of the larger cities in the state, and 25 of the state’s 67 counties remain dry, though most of those have cities that are wet. Nearby Clay County has the distinction of being the only county in the state without any kind of legal alcohol sales within its borders.
Lee Caine left the liquor business in the early 1970s, by which point Anniston wasn’t quite the bustling center of the alcohol world it was when he started working at the ABC store in town. By then, Talladega County had gone wet, and a liquor store had opened up in Piedmont too. It was just part of the slow, but inevitable, domino effect of alcohol sales, he said.
“Lots of counties didn’t want alcohol in their county around that time,” Caine said. “But you know, one place does it, others want to do it too.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.