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Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2007

Liquor stores in Wichita soon may have right to open on Sundays

April 15, 2007

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— Liquor stores in the state's largest city could soon have the right to open on Sundays.

Eight cities in Sedgwick County and at least 54 statewide, including Lawrence, have approved Sunday sales ordinances since the Legislature changed the state law in 2005 to allow such sales. On Tuesday, the six-member Wichita City Council is scheduled to vote on becoming the ninth in the county.

The Wichita proposal would let liquor stores sell all their products until 8 p.m. Sundays, while retail stores could sell beer on Sundays.

Four council members interviewed Thursday by The Wichita Eagle said they were undecided. A fifth, Sharon Fearey, has stated her support for Sunday sales in the past.

Mayor Carl Brewer - who was sworn in to that office this week - has not stated a position. The council also has one vacancy, created by Brewer's election to the mayoralty.

If approved, Sunday sales would be allowed 60 days later, unless 6,701 registered voters sign a petition to force a citywide vote to overturn the decision.

Sunday sales were last discussed by the City Council in early November. At the time, members said they wanted to leave the issue up to voters.

News that the matter has appeared on the council's agenda for next week prompted concern from religious groups.

Pastor Wade Moore of the Christian Faith Centre in Wichita said he expects that many Wichitans would oppose Sunday liquor sales.

"I'm sure that there will be a lot of opposition," he said. "I'm personally opposed to it. I would certainly organize a petition against it."

Moore said he wouldn't be surprised to see widespread opposition to Sunday liquor sales among religious groups.

"With something like that, it could be organized on a grass-roots level," he said. "I think that once people get to know about it, there will definitely be some opposition to it."

City Council member Jeff Longwell, who was sworn in three days ago to represent northwest Wichita, said he hasn't formed an opinion yet.

He said he knows businesses on the city's outskirts are losing potential customers as Wichitans drive to Maize and other nearby communities to buy alcohol.

But, he said, he's also sensitive to store owners who don't want to open Sunday.

"I just want to listen to the discussion at this point," Longwell said.

Brian Davis, whose family owns three Davis Liquor Outlet stores, said most Wichita liquor store owners probably have mixed feelings about Sunday sales.

"I'm not for it or against it," he said. "It's not something we're pushing for. ... Half of us really, really want it, and half of us really don't care."

A vote next week isn't guaranteed. Council members could pull the item from the agenda.

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