Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

Basehor council rejects Sunday liquor sales

Stores complain about business losses; council asked to consider values over profits

August 18, 2005

Whether it will appear again remains to be seen, but for now the argument in favor of protecting public safety and respecting the "Lord's Day" has outweighed lobbying efforts by two Basehor businesses seeking sales of alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

The debate whether to allow Sunday sales, one that has been heard for the last several weeks, reached a conclusion -- for now -- Monday night when the Basehor City Council rejected a charter ordinance allowing the additional day of business.

Council members voted, 3-2, to deny the measure. Iris Dysart and Terry Thomas voted in favor of allowing the Sunday sales.

Two businesses, Shorty's Liquor Store and Casey's General Store, requested the council approve Sunday sales. They contend their businesses unfairly lose revenue on Sundays and some holidays to stores in nearby communities that allow seven-days-a-week sales.

Basehor and Tonganoxie are two of the only cities in the Kansas City metropolitan area that prohibit Sunday sales. Next week, the Tonganoxie City Council will debate a measure to allow the extended sales day.

The issue was hotly contested during the Basehor council meeting as proponents and opponents alike weighed in. It was just the public input council members were seeking and some city officials indicated they would have rather seen the question answered at the ballot instead of the council dais.

However, allowing the question to go before public vote was not an option for the city council. City staff told council members that the League of Kansas Municipalities indicated the question was not eligible for public vote.

Stuck with handling the issue, council members listened to arguments for and against the measure and were asked to decide a question that essentially boiled down to morality vs. what's best for business.

Donna Dornbrack of Casey's asked her company "get the privilege of Sunday liquor sales like the surrounding communities." She estimated the Basehor store loses approximately $200 per Sunday by not allowing the liquor sales.

Dave Burkemper, manger of Shorty's Liquor Store, said approving Sunday sales would allow his store to compete with stores in nearby communities and if they weren't allowed "we remain handicapped against them."

Support for the Sunday sales measure wasn't exclusive to just the employees of stores seeking them, but nearly so.

An anti-Sunday sales sentiment festered in the audience and proved to be the overwhelmingly message sent to elected officials by residents who spoke during the meeting.

Representing First Baptist Church, Ed Leonard said he believed the question of allowing liquor sales on the Sabbath is evidence that society has lost "reverence for the Lord's Day, the seventh day."

"Our society cannot stand any more degradation than what it is already suffering," Leonard said. Allowing Sunday sales, he said, "is just one more facet to help us on a slippery slide."

Basehor's prohibition against Sunday sales should not be seen as a negative factor, Leonard said.

"Just because another town or group is doing it, does that make it right?" he said.

Richard Nemchik, a Basehor resident who previously championed the idea of a public vote on the question, said the morals of the community fly in the face of allowing Sunday sales. He called the issue a matter of "profits vs. community values."

"It's all about profits, mainly," Nemchik said. "I didn't move to Basehor for profits -- I moved for the values of the community."

He quoted a passage from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address when he said government is supposed to be "of the people, by the people and for the people," and asked council members keep those words in mind when making their decision.

"He didn't mean government of the business, by the business and for the business," Nemchik said.

Fred Box, a Basehor resident and commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, launched an argument against the measure that was steeped in both public safety and moral concerns.

Box said that alcohol-related deaths are reaching higher levels every year and that allowing Sunday sales could fuel the fire. He added, "It makes no sense to be selling that on Sunday."

"I think when it comes to values and money, one really outweighs the other," he said.

When asked for his opinion whether Sunday sales would add a layer of concern for public safety, Police Chief Terry Horner took no stance. To answer the question accurately, Horner said, he would need to research how many driving under the influence arrests have been made in past years on Sundays and whether those offenders became inebriated from liquor purchased in a bar or from a liquor store.

"I'm not part (of the decision-making process)," Horner said. "I will enforce whatever laws I have to enforce."

It was the public's best interest that many council members said they considered when casting their votes. And, according to the majority of members, the public has told them Sunday sales isn't necessary.

"I've received a number of calls about it," council member Keith Sifford said. "And the opinion I got was I think our community doesn't want to see this passed."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.