HEFLIN — Heflin Baptist Church pastor Brent Thompson beamed with happiness after the Heflin City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to not have a citywide election to determine whether alcohol could be sold on Sunday.
“I was very pleased to see our council vote the way they did — it’s great that righteousness prevailed,” Thompson said.
Before the vote Tuesday night, Mayor Rudy Rooks wanted to make perfectly clear what the council was voting on.
“This resolution is put out for us to vote requesting legislation from State Legislature to allow us to have an election for the citizens to decide whether they want to allow the seven-day sales or not,” Rooks said.
Voting for the resolution was Councilman Travis Crowe who said he is a non-drinker.
“The citizens elected us and we represent them and I think they need to have a say-so in this,” Crowe said.
Voting against the resolution was Councilman Shannon Roberts.
“I do not feel this has been presented to us, by some individuals, as a way of economic development,” Roberts said, citing that Oxford does not have Sunday sales.
Councilman Rhonda Green voted yes and Rhonda Lines and Clinton “Shag” Austin voted no.
The city of Weaver passed Sunday sales back in 2013, according to Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis. The measure was passed as a recruitment tool for businesses to locate in Weaver — and it’s been a success, he said.
“At the time we were going to get a couple of new businesses to come into Weaver: Heroes, Smokin’ Joe’s and Zoe’s on the Lake, which was going to do catering and Sunday brunch and basically they indicated that they would be willing to do it if we could offer something they couldn't get anywhere else,” the mayor said, referring to Sunday alcohol sales.
Willis said the restaurant wanted to serve mixed drinks on Sunday and Heroes wanted to be able to serve alcohol for sporting events like the Super Bowl.
The council discussed Sunday sales and the State Legislature in 2013 gave Weaver “permission to make the decision ourselves,” Willis said.
Willis said there was no serious opposition to Sunday sales except for a youth minister from Talladega.
Willis said that from an economic standpoint, Sunday sales has done very well. He said that people drive from Ohatchee and other areas that don’t have Sunday sales to Weaver to buy their alcohol.
Willis has not seen a downside from Sunday sales.
“I’ve seen absolutely no increase in alcohol-related criminal activity or reports or citations — nothing.”
Sam Patel, 40, owns Sam’s Supermart in Heflin just a stone’s throw from I-20 on Alabama 9. He supported Sunday sales because his sales have dropped since Anniston passed such a law in 2013. Patel explained that he believes Sunday alcohol sales are needed because about 80 percent of his customers on other days buy items such as chips, cigarettes and ice along with their alcohol.
Patel said there is a gas station in Anniston on U.S. 78, across from Werner Ladder Company, that sells alcohol on Sunday.
“I sat down there numerous times and I’ve seen frequent ‘18’ tags and even some of my customers shopping there,” Patel said, referring to the numerical designation for license plates from Cleburne County.
Patel hopes the City Council passes the vote to send it to Legislature.
“If we don’t do it our neighboring cities are ready to pounce — they are also looking at us right now,” Patel said.
After the vote Patel was disappointed.
“I tried my best to convince — maybe — hopefully Oxford will approve theirs and show the city of Heflin that you guys missed out,” Patel said.
Not everyone was for Sunday sales in Heflin. Ricky Kilgore, 63, was running the cash register at Cleburne COaTS, Christian Outreach and Thrift Store, on Ross Street Monday afternoon. Kilgore works in Heflin but is not a resident.
“I just absolutely don’t believe that this city needs to do a Sunday sales on alcohol. They have six days a week to sell it and if they can’t make money off of six days why do they need seven days? They’re not going to make any more on seven than they do on six other that the ones that got a hangover from Saturday,” Kilgore said.
Longtime restaurateur David Mogil owns DamnYankees Steak/Fish & Oyster Bar in Heflin and had supported Sunday alcohol sales.
“I think it’s an opportunity for the city to earn tax revenue it desperately needs without having to raise other fees and license costs to people in town,” Mogil said at his restaurant on Monday during lunch hour.
Mogil said his restaurant was located in downtown Anniston for 16 years. When Sunday sale was approved in 2013 his sales grew but once Gadsden passed its Sunday sales his revenues dropped.
Mogil’s restaurant used to be open on Sundays and he said he would reconsider if the law were to be changed.
“I might try to open on Sunday again — The customers that came from out of town were mad ’cause they couldn't have a beer with their oysters,” Mogil said.
After the meeting Lynne Scott was disappointed that the council did not let the citizens decide.
“I feel that our councilmen tonight denied the citizens of Heflin our constitutional right to vote on an issue,” Scott said.
Scott had written a letter to the council stating that “A yes vote does not mean you support Sunday sales.”
In other business the council unanimously approved a $50 increase in the cost of opening and closing a grave at the city cemetery. The new fee is $600.
The next council meeting will be on January 23 at 5:30 p.m.
City buildings and offices will be closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15.