By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Proponents of Sunday alcohol sales have until just before Christmas to gather nearly 7,000 signatures of registered Canadian County voters on a petition.
The initiative petition was filed Sept. 23 at the Canadian County Clerk’s Office and signed by six Canadian County proponents: Charles Edward Bishop III, Michael Kaleb England, Sherry Lynn Wagner, Rickey Andrew Cook, Kyle D. Farnham, and Nathan Andrew Cross.
Supporters are asking Canadian County Commissioners to call an election so voters can decide whether to allow Sunday sales of alcohol by the drink at Canadian County restaurants and bars, and Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages by retail spirit licensees.
Bishop, a member of the Canadian County Libertarian Party, knows proponents have some work to do.
“We can’t just pass these petitions out,” Bishop said. “Each one of the signature pages has an affidavit on the back that must be signed by the individual who gathered and individually witnessed the people signing the petition.
“We have our core team of the Libertarians, but we’re going to have to expand a little beyond that where each of us has three or four people responsible for going to the establishments and getting signatures – maybe on busy nights.”
Proponents also plan to gather signatures from Canadian County registered voters at special events.
Some Canadian County restaurant owners want to be able to serve alcohol before 2 p.m. Sunday, saying the current rule hurts business and takes tax dollars away from cities.
These Canadian County establishments – for decades – have not been permitted by law to sell alcohol products before 2 p.m. Sunday. That frustrates some patrons who want to have a mimosa or Bloody Mary with their Sunday brunch or lunch.
The initiative petition seeking changes to Canadian County’s Sunday liquor rule was first filed this spring but later withdrawn due to the COVID-19 shutdown, which restricted the opportunity for proponents to gather the required signatures.
SHOOTING FOR 8,000
An initiative petition signed by an amount equal to 15% of registered voters in the last governor’s election in Canadian County is required to place an item on the ballot.
There were 46,106 registered Canadian County voters who voted in that Nov. 6, 2018 election, which means the initiative petition must have signatures of 6,920 registered voters.
Proponents have 90 days from Sept. 23 to collect the signatures.
Their goal is to have at least 8,000 signatures on the petition in case it is determined that some signers are not registered Canadian County voters.
“The petition will be turned in to the county clerk and it will be up to the county clerk to determine whether it is sufficient,” Bishop said. “The ADA (assistant district attorney) will make the final decision on that and then hand it over to the commissioners.
“According to statute, if the numbers are met, they will then order it to be placed on the next available election. We won’t make it in time for the November election, at this point.”
A majority of Canadian County voters must approve any change to county liquor laws.
The measure – if passed – would allow for “the sale of alcohol by retail liquor stores” and “the sale of alcoholic beverages by the individual drink” on Sundays, according to proposed ballot titles.
Hader, chairman of the three-member Canadian County Commission, encouraged residents to create the ballot initiative while exercising their right and ability to influence their community.
“My hope is that those folks who have felt strongly about this have been proceeding with their efforts on a petition,” Hader said recently. “I’ve encouraged them to come together in one effort and get that done.”
District 3 Canadian County Commissioner Jack Stewart, who supports eliminating the Sunday restrictions, said Canadian County is the only county in Oklahoma with a law forbidding alcohol sales between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday.