published Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Sunday alcohol sales on ballot in Catoosa County, Ga.

Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Former Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart
Ronnie Moore

On Nov. 6, voters in Catoosa County, Ga., will have the opportunity to approve Sunday sales of beer, wine and alcohol at stores and restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county.

Ringgold voters will have the chance to approve Sunday sales, too.

If the so-called "blue laws" die, it would leave Fort Oglethorpe as the only part of Catoosa County that's "dry" on Sunday.

Will that prompt large retailers, such as the Costco warehouse store on Cloud Springs Road, to make a run for the border and seek to deannex, or secede, from Fort Oglethorpe and become part of the county?

"Hasn't ever been discussed," said Bob Palermo, general manager of the Fort Oglethorpe Costco. "I have heard that story from a lot of people. I can't tell you where it came from. It certainly didn't come from Costco.

"Is it something that's possible?" he asked. "Your guess is as good as mine."

Palermo said customers who are unaware of the ban on Sunday sales bring alcoholic beverages to checkout registers every week.

"It's not unusual for us to put thousands of dollars of beer and wine back every Sunday," he said.

The Walmart store on Battlefield Parkway in Fort Oglethorpe started selling beer only eight weeks ago.

While Costco is right on the line between Fort Oglethorpe and the unincorporated county, the Walmart is well inside Fort Oglethorpe city limits.

"We're in Fort O. pretty good," store manager Steve Crow said.

Speaking for himself, not Walmart, Crow predicted that county voters would approve Sunday sales. If the county and Ringgold repeal their blue laws, the Fort Oglethorpe City Council will follow suit, Crow predicted.

"There'd be too much pressure on them not to pass it," said Crow, who favors Sunday sales "to help the city on taxes."

Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart also thinks county voters will approve Sunday sales.

"I think it'll pass overwhelmingly," he said.

Goulart is concerned that will prevent businesses now in the county, such as convenience stores on U.S. Highway 41, from ever wanting to become part of the city.

"I'm not so much concerned about deannexations as I am about annexations," Goulart said. "If this thing passes, they're not going to want to come in the city."

Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman Johnnie "Red" Smith opposes Sunday sales. He already voted in the Nov. 6 election and cast a vote against allowing Sunday sales in the county, he said.

"I've not had the first person, you know, want Sunday sales," Smith said, referring to his constituents. "They've already got it six days a week."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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