"Danville has won awards for being one of the finest small towns in the past and did it all without Sunday sales or alcohol sales at all," LaPalme said. "I don't believe this is fiscally sound or efficient."
Patrick McClure, a local attorney and member of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership alcohol sales task force, was the only citizen to speak out on behalf of expanded sales. He noted that alcohol sales already exist and encouraged the commission to look past the moral arguments.
"At the end of the day, this is an economic issue, period," McClure said.
McClure asked Police Chief Jay Newell to attest to the fact that DUI arrests have remained relatively steady since the city began allowing restaurants to sell alcohol by the drink.
Commissioners had asked City Manager Paul Stansbury to rewrite the current ordinance after the release of a report by the Economic Development Partnership.
The report suggested that restricting alcohol sales on Sunday hurts restaurant business profitability, limits wages, holds back new restaurant development, and makes it harder to recruit new business and industrial prospects.
The report presented figures based on 2007 restaurant tax revenues from three unidentified restaurants that showed there is a possibility for $3,328 in additional annual tax revenue per restaurant with Sunday alcohol sales, figures McClure said are actually too conservative.
Several speakers, including Joe Chance, took issue with the idea that expanded alcohol sales will have a positive impact on economic growth.
"We were told that nice restaurants and big hotels would come here if we just allowed alcohol, and none of that has happened," Chance said.
In the end, the commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of the first reading of the amended ordinance.
Commissioner Kevin Caudill said he had opposed changing the ordinance in the past but had become convinced to vote in favor of the amendment.
"I really haven't had a strong opinion on this, but what I believe after talking to people is that many believe now is the time because of the economy and what other communities are doing," Caudill said. "I don't think this will be a great boon to the city, but I also don't believe it will signal a decline in the moral fabric of the community either."
Mayor Hugh Coomer again recused himself from voting on the issue because he believes a compromise should be sought.
"It has always been my feeling that if we were going to have Sunday sales it ought to be limited to after 1 p.m. or 12 p.m. at the earliest," Coomer said.
The amended ordinance extends sales to each day of the week, but keeps the permissible hours from 6 a.m. until midnight.
* * *
SO YOU KNOW
Danville City Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Community Arts Center for second reading of an amended ordinance to allow Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants. The agenda also includes first readings for two zone change ordinances and a budget discussion.