MILTON — The Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners on Monday, without objection, moved to advertise for an ordinance change to allow Sunday sales of alcohol.
Michael Thomas, owner of Grover T’s Barbecue, brought the issue to the board, along with other locals connected to the restaurant business.
“There are sales that have been going to Escambia County that Santa Rosa County ought to be getting to help fund sheriff salaries or other capital needs that you have,” Thomas said.
“You’ve talked about commercial development and economic development and trying to woo people into the county, to open up business here. Well, you already have people who have spent money developing businesses here, but as county commissioners you’ve tied our hands from doing our job 52 days of the year,” said Mike Rinaldi, owner of Doc’s Discount Liquors in Milton, a city in the process of passing a Sunday alcohol sales ordinance.
“If my competition has a government-provided, economic advantage that is less than five minutes down from my restaurant, I see that as unfair,” said Joe Abston, owner of five restaurants between Escambia and Santa Rosa County such as Hopjack’s Pizza Kitchen and Taproom and Tin Cow.
Trademark Properties opened two developments in the Pace/Pea Ridge area: Panera Bread and a three-tenant building that includes Jersey Mikes, Five Guys and Verizon Wireless, said Briana Snellgrove, Trademark’s marketing director and property manager.
However, the county missed out on an Olive Garden and a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant building in Santa Rosa County due to Sunday sales, she said.
She delineated the following missed economic benefits:
Both restaurants are standalone so they build from the ground up, which requires contractors, architects, surveying and plumbing. A majority of those services bid and hire locally.
Pensacola Olive Garden reports 100 on staff; Buffalo Wild Wings reports 65. That’s over 165 jobs.
Their combined property tax in 2016 was just over $48,000.
These establishments opt for a ground lease 20-year contract, which equates to $950,000 to be circulated in our community.
Previously, Commissioner Bob Cole suggested creating parity by eliminating Sunday sales across the county. Monday, while not expressing support, he recommended moving the issue to Thursday’s agenda.
Commissioner Sam Parker said he doesn’t drink alcohol himself and has seen people make foolish decisions on alcohol as an Escambia County Sheriff’s deputy.
“However, I know restricting sales on Sunday don’t prevent those who want alcohol from obtaining it. It simply forces those people who wish to purchase it on Sundays to drive to the (Naval Air Station Whiting Field) commissary or neighboring counties and purchase them,” he said.
The taxes from purchases remaining in the county could go toward the Sheriff’s Office, firefighting equipment, and county capital expenses, Parker said before moving to advertise for a public hearing to consider an amendment to the ordinance that relates to the sale of alcoholic beverages.