Cashiers stock the high shelves in Morganelli’s Party Store in Forest Acres. (Photo by Emmy Ribero/Carolina News and Reporter)

A bill was sent to the Senate on Thursday that would allow the sale of alcohol at retail locations and distilleries on Sunday afternoons.

But the bill requires counties and municipalities to hold a referendum to let voters decide whether to implement the change. 

The sale of alcohol on Sundays is legal now only at restaurants and bars. The bill would make it legal at retail outlets and distilleries from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. 

Such sales are illegal now “in the interest of law and order or public morals and decorum,” according to the bill.

But despite the possibility of increased sales, some retailers don’t want the change.

“The public has no decorum. The public has been unruly since the get-go, alright,” said Mike Reynolds, a buyer for the liquor store Morganelli’s. “If you have another day of drinking, it’s just going to be another day of problems for the law enforcement. It’s going to be another day of problems for everybody.”

The state Department of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office doesn’t expect a large economic impact from the changes.

But Beth Bernstein, a democratic representative of Richland County and co-sponsor of the bill, said she thinks it would have a positive local economic impact. 

“It would boost those economies,” Bernstein said. “I think the business community is in support. And those were one of the voices that we heard (from) about implementing this legislation to give consumers an opportunity, and businesses an opportunity, to sell the product.”

Morganelli’s Party Store in Forest Acres is a small, locally owned liquor store. Reynolds said his store wouldn’t open on Sundays even if it could.

“It’s another day to worry about,” Reynolds said. “It’s going to cost us money if we have to open because we have to have employees. We’re not going to be able to do with any less than we’ve got now. We’d have to hire extra to work one more day.” 

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Van Guest, R-Horry, said the best part of the bill is that it lets residents decide. 

“If it’s something that they think they want, that’s going to make their community better, or if it’s something they don’t want because they just want things the way they are, it gives them their opportunity to determine what’s best for the people of their community,” Guest said.

Rep. Ryan McCabe, R-Lexington, was a “nay” vote on the bill because of the amendment requiring local referendums. He said it goes against South Carolina’s constitution.

“If they left the bill the way it came to the floor, my intention was to vote for it,” he said.

Article eight, section one of the state constitution makes it illegal for municipal corporations to license the sale of alcohol, he said.

“I really think that was the purpose of the amendment, was for people to have plausible deniability about either whether they were in support of the bill or not,” McCabe said.

Guest says the bill is one of many that he sees abolishing or taking so-called blue laws “off the books.” 

Blue laws are also known as Sunday laws, which regulate certain entertainment or commercial activities occurring on Sundays. The laws date to colonial America’s protection of the Christian Sabbath, according to the Cornell Law website. 

“It was a religious day,” Guest said. 

The bill was read a third time on the 15th and now has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. McCabe said he’s unsure how the Senate will view it. 

A shopping cart stands full of bottles to restock shelves at Morganelli’s Party Store.  (Photo by Emmy Ribero/Carolina News and Reporter)

The store front of Morganelli’s Party Store (Photo by Emmy Ribero/Carolina News and Reporter)

Morganelli’s wide selection of bitters is one of Columbia’s largest. (Photo by Eileen Waddell/Carolina News and Reporter)