The Royal Palm Beach Village Council decided last week to place an item on its next agenda to change its ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol before noon on Sunday for off-site consumption.
Village Manager Ray Liggins said the council had placed the item on the agenda after Costco representatives had requested the change in hours for the sale of alcohol after noticing changes in Greenacres and Delray Beach.
“Alcohol sales are regulated by the state,” Liggins said. “They have hours established by state law, but they also allow cities to establish their own hours if they want to do it differently than what the state allows.”
The state regulates the sale of alcohol, prohibiting sales from midnight to 7 a.m.
“If you want to do times different than that, you have to have your own ordinance, which is permissible,” Liggins said. “Our current ordinance prohibits the sale of alcohol for consumption on or off property Monday through Saturday from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., and on Sunday from 2 a.m. to noon. Costco had requested that the Sunday time be moved back to 10 a.m. to be the same as the other six days of the week in Royal Palm Beach.”
Liggins provided a summary of hours for alcohol sales in surrounding areas. “It’s a little bit different for every city, and the county is a little bit different than that, but I would say as far as Sunday morning is concerned, Wellington and Royal Palm Beach seem to be the strictest as to the prohibition of purchasing it prior to noon.”
During public comment, former Councilwoman Martha Webster said a similar request had been made three years ago. “At that time, the council as a whole denied it, but I think that times have changed, and as we begin to look at the way the village grows and the region grows, we see things change,” she said. “I think that looking at this now, something that’s very important is the health of our village and our tax base, and the success of our businesses is important. I don’t believe that two hours would make a difference in the perception of our village.”
Councilman Fred Pinto, however, wasn’t sure about changing the hours. “When this came up several years back, we really didn’t discuss it,” he said. “I have very mixed thoughts on this request.”
Pinto said that if it was going to be a convenience for citizens, he would favor it. “If people come to Costco to shop at 10 o’clock when they open, and then choose to buy alcoholic beverages while they’re on a shopping trip at Costco, this is a convenience for them to not have to go to another store or not have to wait until noon to do that part of their shopping,” Pinto said.
He added that he would not consider moving it earlier than 10 a.m. “That way we could at least say that it is consistent with the other days of the week,” he said. “My challenge comes if I do look at Sunday, as a Christian, as a special day of the week. That’s not the basis that I should be making this determination on. My basis is on something that is a convenience for the citizens who choose to shop at that time of the morning on Sunday and want to be able to complete their shopping at one place.”
Councilman David Swift also had mixed feelings about changing the hours.
“I think we may have to look at it a little bit larger,” Swift said. “If we make this change, we’re making this change for every grocery store or supermarket that sells alcohol in our town, so it’s more than just Costco. I understand Costco’s issue, but I have been out here for quite a while and never had a resident come up to me and ask me, ‘Gee, we need to change our hours.’”
Swift said that he would welcome input from residents. “I’d love to hear from you if you think this is a good idea, a bad idea, or it doesn’t make any difference, because I’ve had no input other than Costco,” he said.
From a long-term standpoint, Swift said he would look to see whether amending hours for alcohol sales would move forward the council’s strategic vision of making the village a premier residential community with a hometown feeling and the choice for families.
Councilman Richard Valuntas, who asked that the item be placed on the agenda, said he had many Jewish friends and grew up with Jewish children who did not celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday. “Surprisingly, we have no prohibitions on [alcohol] sale on the Jewish Sabbath,” he said. “We do on the Christian Sabbath. There’s no explanation for that.”
Valuntas added that the ordinance seems bad for village businesses, because purchasers of alcohol can go across State Road 7 and buy it in West Palm Beach at all hours of the night. “They can’t do it here, so for whatever reason, we are creating a disincentive for [sales at] our shopping establishments,” he said.
Valuntas added that he did not understand how it’s family friendly to pick one religion and recognize its Sabbath and prohibit alcohol sales, but not another.
“I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “This is something that I think is bad for businesses, and I think we should do away with the establishment of this ordinance altogether.”
Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara said he conducted a mini-survey and found support for extending the alcohol sale hours to 10 a.m. on Sunday.
“I heard what Councilman Valuntas said, and that makes perfectly good sense, because that was one of the things that struck me, too,” Hmara said, adding that he would like to see a more complete survey.
Mayor Matty Mattioli said his home state of Pennsylvania had strict blue laws that were troublesome and subject to abuse. “They’re not worth the paper they’re written on,” he said.
Pinto agreed with Swift that more public input is needed, but Valuntas said he thought the reason it was on the agenda was to invite participation.
Liggins said that if a motion were made to change the ordinance, it would go through two advertised public hearings.
Valuntas made a motion to put an item on the next council agenda, which carried 5-0.