Stores, restaurants both now may begin at 10 a.m.
OKEECHOBEE — Last month, the Okeechobee County commissioners approved a change to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. That expansion applied only to restaurants that had licenses for on-site consumption of alcohol. At their Feb. 27 meeting, county commissioners approved an expansion on that change to have a uniform permitted start time of 10 a.m. for the sale of alcohol on Sundays, regardless of type of facility.
The motion passed by a vote of 3-2, with Commissioners Kelly Owens and Bryant Culpepper voting no.
“I was one of the proponents of this and I was trying to be a little more balanced and business-friendly,” Commissioner Bradley Goodbread said at the meeting. “Make things a little more equitable and a little more balanced.”
Before the vote, Commissioners Owens and Culpepper explained their opposition to allowing bar and stores to sell alcohol earlier.
“I had a lot of people reach out to me who were not supportive of it,” said Commissioner Owens. “There was a perception that this has already passed with the city, which from my understanding it has not. They won’t be discussing it until next month. Because of the number of people who did reach out to me in opposition to this and voiced their concerns to me, I won’t be able to support this.”
“I have to echo Commissioner Owens,” Commissioner Culpepper explained. “It’s kind of a traditional thing. I believe one of the reasons given for this was if someone wanted to go fishing they could get their alcohol before 12 o’clock or whatever, and I can’t see what the issue was with them going the night before. I’m just afraid that there are going to be a lot of people drinking packaged goods that aren’t going to be in a restaurant or facility like O.K. Corral. It just doesn’t sit right with me.”
Commissioner Terry Burroughs said that he hasn’t heard from anyone who was against the idea, although he has had many comments in support of it.
At Jan. 8 meeting when the county commission first voted to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages starting at 10 a.m., it was Commissioner Goodbread who suggested expanding the rule for all establishments.
“I think if you’re going to do it, do it all,” Commissioner Goodbread said then. He went on to say that restricting alcohol sales at bars and package stores on Sunday is “keeping one foot back in the 1800s. I would just as soon make a clean sweep of it.”
The county ordinance will not apply to restaurants inside city limits; the City of Okeechobee has its own ordinance governing alcohol sales.