Sunday alcohol sales don't get cheers from all
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Jun 29, 2013 | 6683 views |  0 comments | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Shirley Phillips Manager of Express Mart on Alabama Hwy. 77 in Ohatchee restocks beer at her store. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Shirley Phillips Manager of Express Mart on Alabama Hwy. 77 in Ohatchee restocks beer at her store. Photo by Stephen Gross.
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OHATCHEE — The only grocery store in Ohatchee has just nine aisles, three check-out lanes and a bulletin board in the front encouraging customers to hang their church newsletters.

And no alcohol.

Jim Jones, manager of Ohatchee’s Discount Supermarket on Alabama 77, intends to keep it that way.

“I don’t like what they did in Weaver and Anniston,” said Jones, referring to recent action that legalized alcohol sales on Sundays in the two Calhoun County cities. “I don’t think they should have done that, and I don’t think we need to do that here.”

Ohatchee Councilman J.M. “Butch” Mitchell expects to hear from a lot from folks like Jim Jones in the upcoming months after he suggested Ohatchee, a town of a little more than 1,000 residents on the western side of Calhoun County, might consider Sunday alcohol sales. Mitchell said he floated the suggestion earlier this month at a City Council meeting to see what reaction he would get from his fellow council members.

“It was pretty cold,” he said with a laugh.

But bringing alcohol sales to Sunday isn’t a laughing matter for some folks in town. Steven Delp, an employee at the Express Mart convenience store on Alabama 77, just after the road crosses over the Coosa River, said he’s sick of telling people they can’t buy beer on Sundays.

“The river’s right there and people from out-of-town come in and want to buy beer,” Delp said. “I want to quit telling people no.”

It’s lost revenue, for his business and for Ohatchee, Delp said.

“From a business standpoint, what’s the problem,” said John Phillips, a customer at Express Mart. “It makes them money, makes the town money, it makes everyone money.”

But few places in town actually sell beer to begin with. Although records from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board indicate seven establishments in Ohatchee have alcohol licenses, at least one business, Ohatchee Custom Pizza, said it decided against selling beer shortly after applying for the license. The other stops in town selling beer are mostly gas stations like the Express Mart.

But Mitchell said that’s the target for Sunday sales in Ohatchee anyway. While Anniston and Weaver billed its Sunday sales push as contributing to tourism by encouraging visitors to stop by restaurants in towns, Mitchell said Ohatchee’s best bet is to get people to fill up their coolers before spending the day on the river.

“If they can’t buy it in Ohatchee, then they just buy it somewhere else,” said Christie Brown, the owner of a tackle and bait shop near the entrance of Harts Ferry Park. Brown said her store doesn’t intend to sell alcohol, but said as a resident, she doesn’t see how Sunday sales could be detrimental to Ohatchee.

“The only thing that’s going to happen is the city is going to get more money,” she said.

That’s exactly the argument Jones said he doesn’t have time for. Restocking a freezer Thursday afternoon, he said Weaver and Anniston pushing for Sunday sales was about “following a money trail,” and not letting residents have a say in the matter.

“It’s all about politics,” he said. “You got four or five people down there in Montgomery deciding about things the people don’t want.”

Sunday sales in Ohatchee is far from a reality, and Mitchell said he intends to talk to more people before making a real effort to see if Ohatchee can join Anniston and Weaver in the seven-days-a-week alcohol business.

“There’s going to be a lot of negativity,” Mitchell said. “You just know it’s going to come.”

But away from Discount Supermarket, the neighborhood grocery store in the heart of town across the street from the town hall and police department, the reaction might be more akin to what took place in Weaver and Anniston when those cities pushed for Sunday sales — relative indifference.

Thanz Phan, an employee at Nguyen Convenience Store, the only stop on Alabama 144 to fill up on gas or buy a six-pack for people heading from Ohatchee out to U.S. 431 and Alexandria, said selling beer on Sunday is just selling beer one more day a week.

“People come in and buy beer on Sundays, they can’t,” he said. “If we get Sunday sales, I’ll sell it to them. I have it in the cooler. What do I care?”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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