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Snellville alcohol referendum a go

SNELLVILLE -- After years of controversy, Snellville citizens will have the chance to put a Sunday liquor sales issue at rest.

The City Council voted unanimously Thursday to hold a referendum July 20, even as a judge considers a fresh look at a council decision last year.

"We feel very strongly this should pass," resident Margaret Craig said. "It's a scary thing because it's hurting our town. You don't have any place to go for a nice meal. It's a tremendous burden on our town, and there is no harm in liquor by the drink."

After citizens approved a voter referendum to allow liquor by the drink sales six days a week in restaurants five years ago, the Sunday provision has been a political hot potato.

Late last year, council members cited a provision in state law that cities in large counties where Sunday sales are allowed can forego a referendum.

After a group of residents sued wanting to force the issue to go before voters, a judge halted permits because of a discrepancy between two provisions.

Last week, the same judge heard arguments from the city asking him to reconsider the decision and a ruling is expected soon.

Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said the legal ramifications of the case are enough to continue it despite the call for the referendum.

But Larry Finney said the way the city handles the court case may sway his vote in July.

"What we've got here is plan A or plan B," he said. "I think the citizens of Snellville are split. I think they do need a vote on this."