There are only about 100 restaurants in all of Lancaster County, South Carolina. That's not a lot and some residents say they routinely cross county and state borders to get some breakfast or lunch. It's tied to the state's prohibition on restaurants serving alcohol on Sundays. Next week, residents will vote on whether to allow restaurants serve alcohol on Sundays.
The effort has been led Elissa Boyet. She didn’t know about the prohibition when she moved from Charlotte to Lancaster County in 2008.
Two years later, she started collecting signatures to get the referendum on the ballot.
“I have no financial interest in any restaurant, bar, hotel, nothing," Boyet says. "This is just my own community project to better the county and have more choice for residents of the county.”
She gathered 4,800 signatures by September 2011 and the referendum now has the support of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, where Dean Faile is the president.
“There’s folks that are morally opposed to it and [we] respect their right and their decision and how they’ll vote," Faile says. "But we looked at it strictly from an economic standpoint and we see that it has the potential, there’s no definite, but it has the potential to bring in additional sales tax revenue and additional jobs.”
Neighboring York County approved a similar referendum in 2008. As a result, Faile says restaurants there have seen a big increase in business. He says the chamber did research before endorsing the initiative. He found that local restaurants in York, Aiken and Spartanburg counties saw a 13 to 18 percent increase in sales after lifting the ban and that their slowest day, Sunday, became their second or third busiest.
If the referendum passes, restaurants can pay a $3,050 yearly permit fee to serve alcohol on Sundays. There are only about a dozen restaurants in the county currently licensed to sell alcohol, so it would be a limited impact, but it would mean more revenues for the county.
He thinks more chain restaurants would also open in Lancaster if the referendum passes.