The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 6, 2013

Sunday liquor petitions accepted

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — More than 220 pages of petitions supporting an election to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday in Garfield County was accepted Monday by Garfield County Commissioners.

Organizers Tammy Wilson and Mike Stuber, both Enid city commissioners, brought the large stack of petitions to the county meeting. They were presented and the commissioners will time stamp them to verify the date of receipt.

The commissioners made no comment after the petitions were received, except to thank the organizers. Stuber and Wilson began circulating the petitions 90 days ago, needing 2,693 signatures of qualified Garfield County electors. They presented 4,025 signatures.

The petition will be taken to the Garfield County Election Board for verification. If there are a sufficient number of signatures, an election will be called.

The date listed in petition is Oct. 8. That would mean the signatures would have to be verified by Aug. 17.

Garfield County Election Board Secretary Roy Schneider said Monday afternoon he has the petition and is in the process of verifying the signatures. Schneider’s job is to verify whether those who signed the petition are qualified county voters. He will then return the petition to the county commissioners in time for them to call an election Oct. 8.

The election board will verify each signature and notify Schneider whether they qualify or not.

“We have to get them back to the commissioners so they have 60 days to call the election. We will have them done quite a while before that,” he said.

In February, Garfield County commissioners took no action on a proposed ballot question to allow sale of liquor by the drink on Sundays, deferring the issue until it is requested by a petition of eligible county voters.

At the time, Garfield County Commission Chairman Marc Bolz said as a firefighter and EMT, he was opposed to expanding access to liquor in the county.

“I’m not in favor of anything that’s going to contribute to putting more people drinking and driving on our roads,” Bolz said.

On Monday, both Wilson and Stuber said collecting the signatures was a long, tiring process. Wilson said fellow city commissioner Stuber did yeoman’s work.

“Mike put in more hours than I did, because I was kind of entrenched in parks when we started this. The last 90 days he’s been completely involved in it. But we have put a lot of hours and energy into getting it done,” Wilson said.

She said the desire to have an election is obvious.

“People understand that one, they should have the right to vote on it, and two, that this is entirely an economic development issue,” Wilson said. “We work toward progress every day, and things like this slow us down needlessly. People want to see some of the bigger restaurants here, but that simply isn’t going to happen until this law changes. It’s a benefit for everyone — the county, the city and the citizens of both.”

Stuber has no idea how many hours he spent, but said it cost him at least six tanks of gasoline. Once the election is called, Stuber said there will be an awareness and support campaign, but he does not yet know what form that will take.

Enid retail consultant Rickey Hayes said there are some restaurants whose ability to sell liquor without restriction would help them be coaxed to Enid. Liquor sales total about 30 percent of the restaurant’s bottom line, he said.

“They would tend to do business in other communities where there weren’t those restrictions,” Hayes said. “It’s so competitive now. Enid is one zip code out of 43,300 in the United States.”

Stuber said the petition is less about drinking than about increased tax revenue.

“I believe it will pass if the voters have enough information,” he said. “I think the voters will see the benefits of passing it and vote accordingly. It will make a difference,” he said.

The new law, if it passes, specifically would allow the sale of alcohol by the drink on Sundays between 10 a.m. and midnight. The proposal also opens up Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, but keeps Thanksgiving and Christmas dry.