Wiregrass Newsroom: Residents may decide on alcohol sales

Dothan, AL (WSFA) --To serve alcohol or not?  That's the big question surfacing in Dothan. After a reinterpretation of the law, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control board is doing away with dual licensing -- a method many Dothan restaurants have used since the 1990's to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Establishments with dual licenses operate under a restaurant license Monday through Saturday and a private club license on Sunday, which allows customers who pay a small "membership" fee to purchase alcohol.

By throwing out that option the state board is asking the city to perhaps give local residents the final say.

"We said, 'well ok, if they want to be able to do it, that's the legal means of authorizing Sunday sales.'  And then if you do that you also can authorize all of the ABC licensees to operate on Sunday. In actually correcting the law, it won't be just the select few that have that advantage," says ABC board attorney Bob Martin.

It's a decision that needs to come fast.  Restaurants will lose their dual licenses in September. And Houston county leaders are ready to see it resolved.

"I just think we need to find the most palatable solution if there is one out there. We don't want to create a situation that our vendors in the community that came here in good faith under certain conditions are now not able to do things that they understood they could do when they came here," says Houston county commission chairman, Mark Culver.

If Dothan residents were to pass a referendum in favor of Sunday alcohol sales, then the city commission would be charged with the task of figuring out the terms--that is, how to deal with the drinks both inside and outside local restaurants and stores.

Reporter: Melissa McKinney