ALACHUA – The Alachua City Commission is paving the way to allow the sale of liquor on Sundays, following in the footsteps of the City of Gainesville and Alachua County, both of which have repealed so-called “blue laws” in the last several months.

During the May 21 meeting, commissioners gave preliminary approval to an ordinance which, if approved on its second reading, would extend the legal sale hours of alcohol in Alachua.

Ordinance 12-19, scheduled for a second and final reading before the city commission on June 25, would extend the legal hours of alcohol sales on Sunday to 7 a.m.-11 p.m., from the current hours of 1 p.m.-11 p.m.

The ordinance, which was initially approved by a unanimous vote of the city commission, would also extend the legal sale of packaged alcohol by bars, clubs and restaurants to 7 a.m. - 11 p.m. on all days of the week, from the current week-long limit of 1 p.m.-11p.m.

The ordinance also contains a provision specifying that if New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday, alcohol sales would be permitted from 7 a.m. - 2 a.m.

On-premise sale hours of alcohol would remain unchanged Monday through Saturday, with the proposed ordinance still allowing those sales from 7 a.m.-2 a.m.  On-premise sales on Sunday would be allowed from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.

G.B. Wilson, compliance and risk management director for the City of Alachua, prepared the ordinance and presented it before the commission.  He said moving the legal opening hours for alcohol sales would not only benefit Alachua businesses, but would also eliminate confusion about current laws.

“Moving the time up to 7 a.m. across the board makes it easy to remember when places are allowed to be open, for businesses and for law enforcement,” Wilson said.

Wilson said this ordinance was influenced in part by recent legislation by the City of Gainesville and by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

On Dec. 15, 2011, the City of Gainesville passed an ordinance allowing on-premise alcohol sales from 7 a.m. - 2 a.m. every day of the week.

Similarly, on Jan. 24, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance allowing liquor sales from 7 a.m. - 11 p.m. throughout the week, while extending the hours of sale for malt beverages and unfortified wine to 7 a.m. - 2 a.m.

Alan Fishman, the owner of Spindrifter Lounge in Alachua, said the earlier sale times will help his business slightly, but that extending the hours until 2 a.m. on Sunday would be even more beneficial.

“I don’t know how much more I could bring in with three extra hours on Sunday, but every little bit helps,” Fishman said.  “If I could stay open until 2 a.m. [on Sunday], I could bring in a live band.  But right now it’s not worth my while if I have to start checking people out at 10:30 to get them out of the bar by 11.”

Wilson said the ordinance did not propose alcohol sales on Sunday until 2 a.m. because he believes it would require extra time, effort and money on the part of the Alachua Police Department.

“Extending the hours on Sunday night would require some shifting around of law enforcement,” Wilson said.  “I’ve spoken with members of the Gainesville Police Department who have said they required extra officers on duty because the bars are open until 2 a.m. on Sunday, and that’s something we’re concerned about having in Alachua.”

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