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Anger brewing over plan to lift beer-sale ban

Spanish Fork Council to vote on allowing Sunday purchases

SPANISH FORK — Residents are angry with the City Council over ordering new rules that would lift a long-standing ban on Sunday beer sales without giving them a voice.

A public hearing was not required when the council last week ordered City Attorney Junior Baker to write an ordinance that would lift the ban after an assistant manager from Albertsons complained the store was losing some $77,000 a year in business to neighboring towns. The new ordinance comes up for a vote on Tuesday.

"They voted on it not too many months ago, and all of them voted against it," resident Royden Hill said. "To have them turn tail on it now is really disappointing. I want to know their reasoning, why they would want to do this."

Hill and several other residents have been circulating petitions among those opposed to changing the law. Another resident, Robert Matthews, put up a Web site, www.idiotsrunmycity.com, to give residents access to the petition.

Last June the council on its own researched the need for Sunday beer sales after a small business asked for a change. The council decided to leave the ordinance unchanged. Council members said they found then that most business owners opposed Sunday beer sales and that the sales tax bite would have little effect. The vote to continue the Sunday sales ban was unanimous.

The Albertsons research, revealed last week, was more thorough and convincing, a city clerk said. Councilmen Matt Barber and Seth Sorensen switched their vote to have the ordinance rewritten. Councilmen Chris Wadsworth and Everett Kelepolo voted against it. Councilman Paul Christensen was absent, so Mayor Dale Barney broke the tie ordering the new ordinance to be drafted.

Tuesday's meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 40 S. Main. The vote to allow the sales could go either way, city staffers say. Residents have been told they can come and listen but not speak.

It's not the first time beer sales have been an issue in the city. In 1999, the council loosened city regulations by discarding a rule that prohibited beer sales before 10 a.m. The new regulations allowed beer sales as early as 6 a.m. and also allowed private clubs to sell beer on Sundays. State regulations allowed Sunday sale of hard liquor, but beer sales are controlled by the City Council.

Spanish Fork leaders at that time took a business approach arguing that when shoppers can't get beer in Spanish Fork they go to Springville or Payson. They used the same argument last week when they voted to have Baker rewrite the ordinance.

Springville began allowing Sunday beer sales in March 2001, just as Wal-Mart was getting ready to open.

"It had nothing to do with that," City Recorder Jo Evans said.

Previously beer drinkers who wanted a Sunday brew could go to one of three taverns, including a private club, she said. After Sunday beer sales were allowed in stores, the taverns went out of business.

"We now have no taverns in Springville," she said.

Payson followed with Sunday beer sales in 2003.

Has it made much of a difference?

"Not really," said Jeremy Rowley, assistant manager at Payson Market. "We did it because Wal-Mart was coming in and they wanted to sell it on Sunday."

Santaquin has always allowed Sunday beer sales, but it wasn't always easy to make a purchase.

"We had no ordinance against it. Business owners just chose not to sell it," Santaquin City Recorder Susan Farnsworth said.


Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: rodger@desnews.com