Fort Walton Beach allows Sunday morning liquor sales
October 28, 2009 9:47 AM
FORT WALTON BEACH — Stores and restaurants in the city now will be able to sell alcohol from 7 a.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week.
The City Council gave final approval Tuesday to an amended alcohol sales ordinance. Previously, most businesses could not sell alcohol before 1 p.m. Sundays.
The council voted 5-1 to pass the amendment. Councilman Bill Garvie abstained from voting because his family owns Staff’s Restaurant downtown.
Councilman Virgil Miller, who was not at the previous meeting when the council gave its preliminary OK, cast the lone dissenting vote.
With the amendment, Sunday hours now match weekday sales hours.
One resident opposed the change out of fear that vagrants would roam the streets with open containers.
“You’re gonna create a problem you won’t be able to do anything about,” Chris Gibson said. “We’re not a bunch of drunks around here.”
Councilman Dennis Reeves said the amendment is not meant to encourage or discourage drinking, but to allow businesses to compete with neighboring cities like Shalimar that do not have similar restrictions.
Miller echoed Gibson’s sentiments. He said he was disappointed in the 5-0 decision at the amendment’s first reading.
He said amending the law to be competitive was a repeat of the “stupid” decision to change the cutoff time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. to compete with businesses in unincorporated Okaloosa County.
“We have become, as Ms. Gibson brought up, we’re enablers,” Miller said. “Tonight, I will not be an enabler. I’ll vote against it.”
Several business owners offered their opinion at the meeting.
Rick Cleveland, co-owner of Coasters, said after the meeting that it was not the drunks that stood in Shalimar convenience stores and purchased alcohol.
“It’s the guy on his way home from his shift on base planning ahead,” he said.
Fokker’s Restaurant owner Bill Avery added that the early morning alcohol sales were boat owners who regularly drove out of the city limits to stock up for a day on the water.
Although the new amendment will have no effect on his operation, Avery supported the council’s decision.
“There are a lot of independent business people and this is going to help them considerably,” he said. “We’re in hard times and we all need to be competitive.”