The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 4, 2013

Stillwater’s Sunday liquor sales vote results discussed

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

STILLWATER, Okla. — Before voters in Stillwater’s Payne County voted last year to let restaurants and bars serve liquor by the drink on Sundays, several restaurants passed up an opportunity to set up shop there.

It’s a common line told by supporters of both that liquor law and a similar proposal on Garfield County’s ballot Tuesday.

Stillwater’s economic development director said the city has received several second looks since the Sunday liquor ordinance passed. But in the 11 months since the law passed, just one of those businesses has made significant advances toward opening.

“Hopefully, in the spring we’re going to have another bar-grill open up that really wasn’t interested until that law was changed,” said Angela McLaughlin.

She declined to name that business, but said a deal to acquire a building is nearing completion.

“We’ve attracted a lot of people without that change, but we continue to grow,” McLaughlin said. “If they’re looking at 15 different communities and you’re the only community that doesn’t serve alcohol on Sunday, you can be taken off that list pretty easily. That’s the nature of the game.”

Some opposition

Garfield County’s new ordinance would allow liquor-by-the-drink sales during certain hours on Sundays. It also allows liquor sales on Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July.

Some churches and religious officials in Enid are opposed to the law and are pushing for its defeat. One church, Gospel Light Baptist, made its stance known on its marquee. Its pastor could not be reached Thursday. Other opponents contend that alcohol-related crime like DUIs could increase.

A spokesman with Stillwater Police Department declined to discuss the matter, because there was no data available to show whether there was an increase in crime attributable to the change of law. McLaughlin, though, said she hasn’t seen any of those predictions come true.

“We need to remember that if somebody really wants to go get intoxicated, they can go into Walmart and buy a 24-pack of beer, take it home and get well on their way without going into a restaurant,” she said.

Local biz

Aside from the attraction to national chain restaurants, McLaughlin said local entrepreneurs supported reversing the rules.

“There was an economic driver behind that on attracting new restaurants here in town. However, the local people in town who serve alcohol were really pushing for this,” she said. “They saw the need.”

Brendan Foutch was one of those local restaurant owners. He is a managing partner at Brooklyn’s.

“It makes a world of difference. We have a Bloody Mary bar here on the weekends and that’s a staple point in what we do, being able to serve that alcohol,” he said.

Allowing bartenders to pour alcohol on Sundays lets his customers have something besides low-point beer “you can get at the gas station.” Instead, he said, they can have wine, mimosas or the Bloody Mary bar.

Foutch said up to 20 percent of his business now is alcohol sales. The response has been so positive that he has added another shift and now remains open for another six hours.

“My after-church crowd’s huge,” he said.