The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 18, 2013

Petition drive for Sunday liquor sales continues

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Supporters of a plan to allow Sunday liquor sales continue to circulate petitions to bring the idea up to a vote of county residents.

Mike Stuber, an Enid city commissioner and one of the primary backers of the plan, said the initiative petition calls for Garfield County commissioners to place the issue on the ballot and let voters decide whether to allow restaurants and clubs to sell alcoholic beverages on Sunday and some holidays.

According to the petition, restaurants and clubs would be able to sell alcoholic beverages 10 a.m. to midnight Sundays and on the Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day holidays.

Thirty-five other counties in Oklahoma already allow sales of alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

“We’re trying to be competitive in a very competitive field,” Stuber said.

Petitions began circulating after Garfield County commissioners decided in February not to place the item on a ballot themselves, Stuber said. The group needs 2,796 valid signatures to successfully call the election. Stuber said he is not certain how many signatures have been collected because of the number of petitions being circulated.

Marc Bolz, chairman of the board of county commissioners, said the consensus of commissioners was the vote would be better called through an initiative petition.

“They asked us to put it on the ballot for a countywide election. We felt like the right way was by initiative petition, to see if there is enough support to put it on the ballot,” said Bolz, District 1 commissioner.

County Commissioner Reese Wedel agreed, saying the request included letters from some restaurants saying they would not come to Enid because there are no liquor sales on Sunday.

“To me, that (initiative petition) shows more consensus of people who think it should be put to a vote. We need to have that kind of consensus of people across the county willing for us to spend that kind of money,” Wedel said. Wedel is county commissioner for District 2.

James Simunek, District 3 County Commissioner could not be reached for comment.

Stuber said he has collected about 700 signatures and expects to have more when people start bringing them in.

“We will plan to have one or two days when we circulate them in public places,” Stuber said. “We’re waiting for nicer weather.”

The deadline to gather the proper number of signature is May 8 — 90 days from Feb. 8, Stuber said, which is when paperwork was submitted to the county. Stuber said the signatures will be collected prior to the deadline. Petition circulators had to start over after some of the initial petitions had an incorrect voting date.

“This is more than anything about restaurant recruitment. There are restaurants who make business decisions not to come to a place where part of their product is not available 15 percent of the week,” Stuber said.

He said about 30 percent to 40 percent of restaurant profits come from alcohol sales. Stuber said it is an economic development issue: Enid has lost Logan’s Roadhouse, Santa Fe Cattle Co., Olive Garden group and the Charleston group because it does not allow Sunday alcohol sales.

“We have so many out-of-towners coming in that don’t understand. They are used to getting that wherever they are, and it gives us a bad image,” Stuber said.

A number of Enid restaurants would open on Sunday if they were able to serve alcohol, he said.