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Bars, restaurant owners gear up for petition drives

A group of bar and restaurant owners and managers say the law governing when restaurants and bars in Canadian County can begin serving alcohol on Sunday needs to be changed.
This week, they met to begin the process of bringing the question to voters.
Currently, restaurants and bars in Canadian County can not sell alcohol before 2 p.m. on Sundays. However, that puts them at a disadvantage to similar establishments just a few miles east in Oklahoma County.
The group met Wednesday at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to discuss their options.
They also acknowledged facing challenges with both approaches that are being considered.
One approach is to ask the Canadian County commissioners to place a question on the ballot.
The second approach is to gather 6,893 signatures needed to place the two questions on Sunday liquor sales on the ballot.
The number of signatures needed is based on 15 percent of ballots cast in the 2018
gubenatorial election.
The challenge with the first approach is that two of the three county commissioners have said they are unwilling to place the question on the ballot on their own, said Nathan Cross of Grady’s 66 Pub.
The problem with the second approach is that business is down because of the coronavirus crisis, making it more difficult to collect signatures at bars and restaurants, he said.
Cross distributed a list of phone numbers and email addresses of the commissioners.
“We want to bring awareness to the issue of taxes leaving the county because people can buy drinks earlier than 2 p.m. Sunday in Oklahoma County,” he said.
“We encourage people to protest to the Canadian County commissioners.”
The group also plans to circulate petitions to place two questions on the ballot.
One petition is intended to allow bars and restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks earlier than the current 2 p.m. The other would allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays.
The proposed ballot language has been advertised in newspapers throughout the county.
Petitions cannot be circulated until 10 days after the first advertisement, Cross said.
If a protest is filed, a court hearing on the validity of the ballot language would be held, Cross said.
If no protest is filed, the proponents could begin collecting signatures on the petitions March 28, he said.
Also attending the meeting were representative of Chili’s Grill & Bar, Lokal and Louie’s Grill & Bar.
Cross signed the petitions to place the questions on the ballot, along with five representatives of the Canadian County Liberation Party.
On March 2, Commissioner Jack Stewart suggested that the commissioners place the question of an earlier sales of drinks on the ballot.
Commissioners Marc Hader and David Anderson did not respond then.
Monday, Hader said he favored having a group collect signatures to place the issue on the ballot.
“I like the petition,” he said. “It’s part of the democratic process.”
Anderson also said he favored a petition.
“It would show a real desire by residents,” he said.
Stewart disagreed with his colleagues.
“I have no problem with us putting it on the ballot,” he said.
One advantage of the commissioners moving forward on their own is that they can schedule the election to coincide with another election — rather than schedule a special election, Stewart said.
“Elections aren’t cheap,” he said. “They come with a cost.”
The discrepancy between Canadian County and Oklahoma County increased as a side effect of changes in state liquor laws that went into effect in October 2018.
Before that, restaurants in the county could serve beer with 3.2 percent alcohol at any time on Sundays. That was because 3.2 beer was considered a nonalcoholic beverage.
The new liquor eliminated the sale of 3.2 beer.

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