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Pendergrass votes 55.1 percent against Sunday alcohol sales
Many see city's churchgoing roots as reason for referendum not passing
Gary Vener shops at the Barn Bottle Shop in Pendergrass on Wednesday. The town voted to not allow Sunday sales of alcohol in Tuesday’s referendum.

Local cities that passed Sunday alcohol sales
• Braselton
• Dawsonville
• Flowery Branch
• Gainesville
• Helen
• Hoschton
• Jefferson
• Oakwood

Pendergrass on Tuesday voted down the Sunday sale of packaged alcohol. It was one of only a few in the state to do so.

The measure was defeated with 55.1 percent voting no on Tuesday to Sunday sales in grocery, convenience and package stores.

Many residents in Pendergrass blame the city’s churchgoing roots for the referendum being turned down.

“I think it’s foolish,” resident Billy Simmons said. But the vote didn’t come as a surprise, he said, because he realizes the area is primarily conservative.

“The area is still mainly downhome-type people,” he said.

Georgia was one of three states — including Indiana and Connecticut — that did not allow Sunday alcohol sales, and the last Southern holdout. But local governments were allowed to question voters on the issue after the Georgia legislature passed a law earlier this year.

The measure had stalled for years at the Capitol as lawmakers faced resistance from religious groups and the threat of a veto from former Gov. Sonny Perdue. Gov. Nathan Deal, however, signaled his support for the legislation that would allow local control.

Only 120 of Georgia’s 694 total cities chose to vote on the issue Tuesday.

Pendergrass church members said they didn’t support Sunday sales.

Angie Graham, wife of Mountain Creek Baptist Church pastor, the Rev. Jeff Graham, said the church wasn’t in support of Sunday sales because it’s against their beliefs.

“We are against it,” she said. “It just gives people more of an opportunity to purchase alcohol, and we’re against alcohol because of how it tends to destroy lives.”

Jerry Luquire, president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday that the group would continue to urge voters who have not yet taken up the issue to oppose Sunday alcohol sales in their community. He said he will be looking to communities that opposed the issue to figure out why they rejected it.

“It’s discouraging to me that it passed as big as it did where it did,” Luquire said. “Looking into next year, we need to decide, is there a potential to win, and if not, we need to divert our activity to other family issues. (The issue) indicates that it will be very difficult for us to sustain an effort to defeat it.”

The vote passed relatively easily in other Northeast Georgia cities. In Gainesville, 69 percent voted yes, and Braselton approved it with more than 82 percent.

Other local cities that voted to allow Sunday sales include Flowery Branch, Oakwood, Hoschton, Dawsonville, Helen and Jefferson.

Luquire said he believes people were more concerned with securing the right to buy alcohol than religion or morality.

“A lot of these folks are new Georgians, and their states had Sunday sales,” he said. “The just don’t understand why Georgia did not.”

Debi Vener said she moved to Georgia from Pennsylvania and didn’t understand the need to ban Sunday alcohol sales.

“You can go out and buy the liquor on Saturday and drink it on Sunday, so why not be able to buy it on Sunday and drink it on Sunday?” she asked.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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