Sunday morning spirits

Mecosta County commissioners vote on Sunday morning liquor ban

BLUE LAWS: The Mecosta County Board of Commissioners voted 6-0 to lift the Sunday morning liquor ban on Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

BLUE LAWS: The Mecosta County Board of Commissioners voted 6-0 to lift the Sunday morning liquor ban on Thursday. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

BIG RAPIDS — Speeches were made and appeals were given before the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners regarding the Sunday morning liquor ban.

During the Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, commissioners heard from business leaders and residents regarding the merits of lifting the ban on liquor sales before noon on Sunday. Mecosta County was one of two counties in Michigan that had the ban.

“Having liquor not available one morning once a week isn’t going to solve drinking issues in the county,” said Jim Sandy, Mecosta County Development Corporation president. “Bans like these haven’t solved drinking issues in the past, and it isn’t solving them now. This is a matter of personal choice. For the government to get in the way of people making personal choices, I’m kind of libertarian on this.”

Commissioners voted 6-0 to lift the ban, Commissioner Eric O’Neil was absent.

“I fielded calls all week from my constituents,” said Commissioner Marilynn Vargo. “I got 43 calls in favor, one neutral and only four against. I have to vote with how people in my district feel, and I think this will be good for business. I don’t think sales are going to triple, but it will be a positive.”

Some residents at the meeting favored keeping the ban, believing there is enough time to purchase liquor in Mecosta County, and Sunday should be reserved for religious services.

“Everybody talks about the economy and the jobs, and how getting rid of the ban will bring in millions of dollars,” said Big Rapids Township resident Bob Maguire. “I don’t see a solution to the liquor industry, and I don’t see a good outcome to lifting the ban. This is not a golf problem. This is not an economic problem. This is a drinking problem.”

Maguire feels residents should use Sunday morning for purposes other than drinking.

“My thoughts are, on Sunday morning, before noon, we should all be doing something worthwhile, like supporting our local churches,” Maguire said. “My recommendation; keep the ban. We have better things to do than drinking our life away.”

Commission Chair Bill Routley said he consulted with members of his church before the vote.

“People have said, ‘How dare you bring your Christian faith into how you govern.’ But I was elected to vote on my conscience,” Routley said. “I’m not here to preach, but how can you expect me to govern against my conscience? What do you want me to lead by?”

Before the vote, Mecosta County business owners told commissioners about instances when they turned customers away because of the ban and how lifting the ban would be a boost for the county.

“We have a Sunday brunch menu at the Blue Cow,” said owner Connie Rantz-Freiberg. “Often, we have customers who come in and want a mimosa or a bloody Mary. We tell customers we can’t serve alcohol before noon. They will argue because they come from Traverse City or Grand Rapids and think we have misunderstood when Michigan gave us permission to sell on Sunday before noon. We had to explain Mecosta County is one of two counties left that adheres to the ban, and we had customers who found that somewhat disappointing.”

Mecosta County Administrator Paul Bullock said the ban is immediately lifted, and business owners can secure proper licensing from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission starting on Friday.

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