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Mayors ask Pinellas to reconsider Sunday morning alcohol sales ban

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Some Pinellas mayors want the Pinellas County Commission to relax its ban on selling alcohol before 11 a.m. on Sundays.

Allowing sales earlier in the day, they say, is a matter of smart economics, a sign of a progressive region, and a tourist-friendly idea.

“In our minds, it’s just sort of a leftover law that doesn’t have any use anymore,” said R.B. Johnson, mayor of Indian Rocks Beach, of his council’s favorable stance on changing the rule. “We just felt that there was no good reason” to have that prohibition on the books anymore.

Johnson said he and his council did not see why people should have to postpone buying beer, wine or alcohol or why someone should wait to enjoy a mimosa or other drink while having breakfast or brunch at a local restaurant.

“It doesn’t make much sense,” Johnson said.

Under the current rule, sales of alcoholic beverages are banned before 11 a.m. on Sundays. That applies to grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses that sell alcoholic drinks. Under the ordinance, bars must remain closed between 3 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays.

The ban has long been a grievance for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. Earlier this year, he approached County Administrator Mark Woodard about repealing the ban. Woodard suggested he take the issue before the Mayor’s Council. The council declined to act because not all mayors supported the idea and not all had broached the topic with their city councils. Instead, it was left to each city to ask individually.

Kriseman did so, making a formal request that the County Commission amend the ordinance to allow alcohol sales as early as 8 a.m. on Sundays.

County Commissioner Pat Gerard said the county had gotten two or three requests from some cities. Others, like Largo, claim to have no objection to the change.

“Neither the city commission nor the Largo police chief objected to the repeal, and, in fact, saw no significant impact of this change on the city of Largo,” Mayor Woody Brown wrote in a May 18 letter to Pinellas commission chair Charlie Justice.

It’s unclear if the request will have traction with county commissioners.

Gerard said she sees no problem with it.

“I don’t see why (Sunday) shouldn’t be like any other day,” she said.

Janet Long wasn’t sure there’s general support for the change. And, she said, it’s impossible to commit to one side until a proposal is in front of the commission.

“I don’t see a terrific outpouring for it,” Long said. “I don’t see what’s wrong with (the rule) now.”

Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters was the lone vote against the idea at the Mayor’s Council. Any change, she said, should be on a city by city basis. And, she said, there’s no need for it. People know what the law is and should plan accordingly by buying their alcohol the night before, or wait until 11 a.m. Waters also noted that crime is up in some areas as are substance abuse, car jackings and other related issues.

“I don’t see that repealing the blue laws would improve the quality of life for the citizens of Pinellas,” Waters said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

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