Ending years of contentious political and legal fights, Snellville voters turned on the taps for restaurants to sell beer and wine on Sundays clearing the way for seven local restaurants whose licenses were voided back in January to open their bars this Sunday. Other establishments will have to wait three weeks to being pouring.
For years, Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer has maintained that Sunday alcohol sales are the linchpin to the city’s economic future, with opponents arguing the perils of alcohol accessibility and its affront to religion.
“The people of Snellville have spoken,” Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said after the vote at City Hall. “We won. Now we can put this thing behind us and move Snellville forward again.”
In other Snellville news, the City continues to struggle with its 30-year snail mascot.
A Gwinnett County judge will hear arguments this week on whether the taps in Snellville will continue to flow on Sunday.
The opposition wants the judge to overturn the Snellville City Council’s Dec. 14 decision to approve Sunday sales by council vote arguing that such a change can only be done by a public referendum vote.
“This is not about religion. This is not about prohibition. It’s not about standing in the way of progress. Progress is giving people the right to vote,” [Attorney for the opponents Rick] Stepp said. “These are residents. They want a say.”
Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer doesn’t see it that way. He believes the plaintiffs, namely the mayor’s political nemesis Robert Jenkins, are standing in the way of economic prosperity by promoting “some moral mumbo jumbo.”
“Those people who are doing this are trying to destroy Snellville,” said Oberholtzer, who plans to attend the hearing in Lawrenceville. “I will be there to testify if necessary.”
A Gwinnett County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Snellville prohibiting issuance of additional Sunday liquor licenses for the next 30 days. The judicial prohibition comes two weeks after the Snellville City Council voted to allow restaurants to serve liquor on Sundays. The judge will decide whether to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting Sunday liquor licenses on January 27.
Eight Snellville residents filed suit arguing that the City Council acted unlawfully when it amended its liquor laws by a council vote rather than public referendum.
Seven restaurants already have obtained beer and wine licenses, and they began pouring two Sundays ago. The judge’s order won’t stop alcohol sales at those restaurants.
That in itself is a victory for the city, Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said.
“We won the first round,” Oberholtzer said. “We’re still serving.”
By a vote of 4 to 2, the Snellville City Council approved amendments to its liquor ordinance to allow restaurants to serve liqour on Sundays and to extend closing time from 12:00 a.m. to 1:55 a.m.
“I’m relieved we can now start building a better Snellville,” Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said after the vote that drew a crowd of more than 150 people at City Hall.
Former Councilman Robert Jenkins spoke out against the measure. “This city was built by family people. … That did not include alcohol a lot of the time.”
The City will accept applications for Sunday licenses beginning today.