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WICHITA, Kan. -- Cities in Kansas now have the option of allowing stores to sell beer and liquor on Sunday, if local city councils approve the measure, according to the Wichita Eagle.
Some citites are moving quickly, while others are holding back. But no matter what local councils decide, the question of Sunday sales could end up on the ballot during the next election.
The convenience store industry is gearing up for a major petition drive in communities across the state to put the issue before voters as early as April 2006.
Even in towns where councils approve Sunday sales, opponents could launch petition drives to overturn the council's decision at the ballot box.
In Wichita, Kan., City Council member Sharon Fearey said she thinks the public vote is inevitable.
She predicted the council will not vote on Sunday sales, instead letting the public decide.
Tom Palace, executive director of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas, is prepared to launch a petition drive to bring the issue to a vote wherever ordinances don't pass. Five percent of people in a community who voted in the November election must sign the petition.
"The council members are the key, and our people need to start talking to them and tell them how important it is to them," he told the Wichita Eagle.
Kwik Shop president Mike Hoffman said company representatives plan to appear before Wichita's City Council "somewhat quickly."
"We just want to give our customers a choice," he said.
Council member Jim Skelton told the Wichita Eagle his "gut feeling" is that there isn't a lot of support from the council, but he'll wait for a recommendation from his district advisory board.
He has no desire to see a change.
"If you want a drink on Sunday, you buy your drink on Saturday," he said. "It's not a hard thing to do. It's been going on for years in this country."
Other opponents say Sunday liquor sales could lead to drunken driving, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and addiction.
The push for Sunday sales is supported by liquor stores near the Missouri state line, which eastern Kansans have long crossed to buy alcohol on Sunday.
But for Kansas liquor store owners, "the farther west you go, the less support you will find, primarily because there is no economic advantage," said Amy Campbell, executive director of the Kansas Association of Beverage Retailers.
Though most liquor stores oppose Sunday sales, Campbell said it will ultimately be the customers who drive the debate, not the store owners. She said if a referendum proves there is a market for Sunday sales, the industry will follow.
"If I were a city council member, I would be really wanting to test the temperature of the majority of the voters," she said.
Supporting Sunday sales are convenience and grocery store owners, who say that selling on only six days a week is costing them money.
"It's crazy to say the least," Palace said. "You provide cooler space and electricity and all that, but you can't sell it on Sunday."