City leaders take no action on proposed alcohol sales change

Matt Algarin
The construction taking place at Walmart will see an expanded “liquor box.”

Should locals and visitors be able to buy alcohol before 1 p.m. on Sundays?

That’s a question city leaders were asked by local contractor and business owner Tom Case during their Monday night Destin City Council meeting.

Case, who is part owner of Fishheads on Destin harbor, told the council that there are plenty of people who book early morning fishing trips or go boating early on Sundays and they are unable to get their “provisions” before heading out for the day.

Currently, alcohol can be purchased between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday through Saturday, then from 1 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Sundays.

As a tourist destination, Case told city leaders that the regulation is not well known and can cause confusion, especially since alcohol can be purchased at 8 a.m., seven days a week in neighboring cities and counties. On any given Sunday, it’s not an uncommon sight to see carts full of beer and wine make their way to the checkout lanes at Walmart, only to be turned away because it’s not 1 p.m. yet.

For his part, Councilman Rodney Braden said this has been an issue for the past 30-40 years, but that didn’t compel him to make a motion to change the current regulations.

Councilman Tuffy Dixon wasn’t willing to change the rules, saying “I just don’t see a need to change that.” While she wouldn’t support a change either, Councilwoman Sandy Trammell said that full service restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol before 1 p.m., as long as they serve more food than alcohol.

Since Destin is known as a family friendly destination, Mayor Mel Ponder told Case, who he said he has known for many years, that it just didn’t seem like the right thing for the city to do.

Ponder said the Destin Walmart is the “No. 1 Walmart in alcohol sales” in the country.

“I’m not proud of that,” he said.

Representatives from the Arkansas-based company told The Log they do not comment on “sales outside of earnings.”

Ponder told his colleagues, that he saw a T-shirt with the phrase “we are a drinking village with a fishing problem” while at the Destin Fishing Rodeo and it struck a chord with him.

“It hurt my heart,” Ponder said.

As for changing the hours on alcohol purchases, no motions were made or actions taken on the council’s behalf, so the regulations remain unchanged.

Expanding liquor sales:

The Destin Walmart store is currently enhancing its liquor offerings, as the retailer is undergoing construction on a new “liquor box” store, according to representatives for the company.

“We are building it in response to the customer feedback we have received —­ this is something that our customers want. It’s anticipated it will open late fall/early winter,” spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.

The old liquor store is about 600 square feet, where the new store will be 5,000-square feet, according to information provided to The Log.