By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
It's against a town ordinance to sell the devil's drink on the Lord's Day. Thing is, sinners face no punishments for doing so.
So, at its Tuesday, Feb. 12, meeting, the Town Council voted to move forward with attaching fines and possible jail time for selling alcoholic beverages on Sundays.
The move can affect five businesses with state retail licenses. If proposed amendments get through two public hearings, violations could cost offenders up to $500 and 60 days in the Volusia County jail.
"We've had some comments from residents," Debbie Bass, town clerk, said in a phone interview after the meeting. "You can't sell in Pierson on Sunday. It's pretty much known that there's one place in Pierson you can buy your alcoholic beverages on Sunday."
Ms. Bass declined to identify the alleged repeat lawbreaker, noting there's been no investigation. She said the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, which provides the town's law enforcement, declined to pursue the matter.
Brandon Haught, public information officer at the Sheriff's Office, said in an e-mailed response to queries that the department won't investigate alleged violations of the ordinance until the town fines offenders.
"Deputies currently do not enforce the city ordinance on prohibited alcohol sales on Sunday due to there being no penalty outlined in the ordinance as it currently stands," he said. "I was told, though, that the city is working on adding a penalty. If/when that change is made, deputies will enforce the ordinance."
Council member Herbert Bennett said the council has occasionally discussed dropping the largely symbolic prohibition for decades. The ordinance was last amended in 2005.
"Our citizens in this town, we've talked about it on a few occasions," he said in a phone interview after the meeting. "Ninety percent of our citizens do not want alcohol sold in town on Sunday."
The ordinance prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages from midnight Sunday morning until 7 a.m. Monday. Additionally, sales are prohibited within 1,000 feet of a house of worship or school without permission. There are some exceptions. It's always legal to sell ethyl alcohol for scientific, chemical, mechanical, industrial and medicinal purposes. Ms. Bass said local storeowners have approached the council to overturn the longstanding ordinance, because it harms business.
"Their argument is you can go five minutes up the road to Barberville, buy it and bring it back to Pierson," she said.
Store owners weren't available for comment when called.
Mr. Bennett said he's aware that people head out of town to buy alcoholic beverages on Sunday. Nevertheless, he'll likely vote to add penalties for selling alcohol on Sunday.
"I don't know if it does any good or doesn't," he said. "But, I'd say 85, 90 percent of folks in town don't want it (sold on Sunday)."