Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Very Important Election

In 1975, the year I was born, Ottawa County, Michigan passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays. By the time my family moved there in 1980, the community had grown accustomed to the inconvenience. They stocked up Saturday night for their Sunday drinking needs, and if they forgot, they drove to the county line - just a few miles away in Fruitport - where such a law did not apply.

As a child, I didn't really understand why sometimes the grocery store had covers pulled over the liquor aisles. I just figured it was one more weird thing the grownups did. My first clue that our town was extra strange came one hot summer when my family and several others loaded into our boats to watch a fireworks display.

Spring Lake is both the name of my hometown and the name of the seven-mile lake I grew up on. (Our motto is Where Nature Smiles for Seven Miles.) At the very end - at the last little strip of shore - is Muskegon County. Perhaps by coincidence, this is also the site of the fireworks.

Back to that summer afternoon. One of the boats had an inflatable dingy and it was decided three men would row to shore to buy beer from the small liquor store (it had a dock for this very purpose). Off they went, shouting "stroke! stroke! stroke!" and spinning in circles. Eventually they made it and returned with cases of cheap beer. As a ten-year-old this was hilarious, but as I grew older, it became the norm.

Now, you may be thinking that you've heard of dry counties, so why is this so special. Because it's not dry. You can drink on Sundays, you just can't go to the store and purchase a fifth. The way I understand it is you can't buy beer or wine in a bar, but spirits are allowed. Or as we like to say, only the real drunks are allowed to drink on Sunday.

Strange as it is, this is life in Ottawa County. They are the last of Michigan's 83 counties that ban Sunday beer and wine sales.

Until now.

For the first time in thirty years, the local ballot includes a proposition asking for the end of the Sunday ban. But of course it's not that simple. The language on the ballot reads “Shall the sale of beer and wine on Sunday between the hours of 2 a.m. and 12 midnight prohibited?", so voters must choose NO in favor of the proposition. The site Say Yes to Sunday has more information, if you're so inclined. My mom tells me there's a big push to "To Approve Sunday Sales, Vote No", or something to that effect. There are already reports of people voting early, getting confused over the wording, and voting YES when they mean to vote NO.

Why is this such a big issue, besides the obvious hassle? Because Grand Haven (the larger town right next to Spring Lake) relies heavily on tourism. Sure, it's freezing six to eight months out of the year, but for four months, GH is a destination for people from all over the country. Some of that business heads south to Holland and South Haven because of the weird liquor law, taking their money with them. With the economy as tough as it is - especially in Michigan - they need all the revenue they can get.

I realize this message is falling on mostly deaf ears. Or if not deaf, ears belonging to people who can't do anything about this. The two people who read this blog and live in Ottawa County have already voted (hi mom and Gary!) so I don't need to convince them. I just thought I'd share what's big in my hometown this Tuesday.

Happy Voting! I'm so excited I could fall over. :)

(you did vote, right?)

50 comments:

Janna Qualman said...

Not yet, but I'm getting myself together to go vote now. Yay! Keep us posted on what happens with this issue.

Jen said...

Haven't voted yet, but plan to this afternoon.

I've lived in a dry town, too. It was right next to the county line, though, and I swear, there was a package store just off the highway that I think served the population of that town. ROFL!

Turkey Lurkey said...

Wow! That is very interesting! I like to learn little tidbits about other places. When we moved to Oregon, there were three important things we needed to learn. 1. You don't pump your own gas. 2. Grocery stores don't sell liquor. 3. U-Turns are prohibited unless otherwise stated. (Which is the opposite from Cali.)

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I will!

Melanie Avila said...

Jen, it seems like those laws are purely for show. Everyone in my county (at least the north half) knows about Coops.

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, I didn't realize that about the gas in Oregon. I thought NJ was the only state with that law. You can't pump your own gas here, either. (twins!) I went to college in Virginia and you can only buy liquor at ABC stores (Alcohol Beverage Control). And, Michigan has screwy turn-arounds, so I guess I feel ALL your pain, lol.

Robin said...

Cool post, Melanie! I agree with Turkey - it's fun to learn little things like this about other places. It's not something you'd learn by picking up the newspaper!

In Pennsylvania, they don't sell liquor in supermarkets, either. I love how they worded the proposition obscurely to mislead people into keeping the Sunday ban.

Melanie Avila said...

I know, tricksy proposition writers...

spyscribbler said...

I'm so nervous! I've been tearing up all day. It's gonna go okay, right? I'm beside myself. I can't wait until the results come in!

Melanie's Mom said...

To demonstrate how important this issue is, when I went to vote on Saturday, the clerk asked me if I understood the Sunday sales proposition -- not whether I had any questions on anything else on the ballot!

Kristine said...

I did vote, yay!! I can't wait for this thing to be over, either way!

It is rather funny that the big scrutiny is over buying liquor on Sunday in Ottawa county. Hmm, I wonder what my family will vote, most likely no, being in favor of course. Did I get that right?

Have a wonderful election day!

Robin said...

(He Robin) I did vote but probably not the way that you or most of your readers did but I feel if you don't vote you can't complain about the results.

In South Carolina, you can only buy the hard stuff at an ABC store but beer and wine can be purchased in grocery stores. However, niether can be purchased on Sundays except in cities that have been designated as tourist towns and there is some criteria that has to be met to get that designation.

Either way, it doesn't effect me because I don't drink any of it.

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, this will be the longest day in history. I'm sure of it.

Melanie Avila said...

Mom, I forgot to mention that! Too funny.

Melanie Avila said...

Kris, I know. I just found out this past weekend when I talked to my mom. Did you see any signs while you were there?

Melanie Avila said...

He Robin, (that still makes me giggle), I would rather people vote opposite of me than not vote at all. I don't have to agree with everyone, but I think voting is a right than can too easily be taken away if we don't value it.

And I heartily agree that if you don't vote, you have zero right to express your opinion.

WendyCinNYC said...

My hometown had "Blue Laws" as well and it's possible they still do today. Gotta enforce those moral standards, ya' know.

Allen said...

I voted. Yup, walked right up and asked for a ballot. Then I had to ask for a pen. Who knew Virginia would retrograde our technology to the pen and ink world. I guess next year we will be using quill and ink wells to vote.

Melanie, what college?

Melanie Avila said...

Allen, Illinois makes you use a pen too. I'd love to see a fancy computerized thing.

I went to James Madison University. Go Dukes!

Penguin said...

I thought it was on the ballot last year?
I don't know, I try to stay out of that place. Grew up there and left. I don't go back unless there is no other option.
And I can tell what side of the county you grew up on. We always went to Strievles(sp)that store was on the coast side of Ottawa, straight up old US-31.

And I had to cut my beard to get a job, it was down to my stomach. Can you say ZZ Top?

Melanie Avila said...

Penguin, this is hilarious to me that you can tell where I grew up! You were also drinking before me so this is purely based on my parents' activities. :)

You sound scary, lol. I thought you looked nice clean-shaven, but what do I know?

It's Only Me said...

Hi, I've been reading here a while, thought I'd finally make a comment.

We had a referendum on our ballot 2 years ago that was worded "yes meant no", luckily people read the practice ballot that was in the local paper and took note. A lot of people were still confused at the wording and voted the opposite way they meant to It's pretty sneaky the way many referendum votes are worded.

I live in a Midwest town that one part of it is dry, but of course one can just drive across the bridge and buy beer there.

What I don't understand is an underage cashier can't scan alcohol, but can take your money for it...to me that is the point of sale, not the scanning of the merchandise. It doesn't make sense.

Kristine said...

I didn't see any signs, however, it was a weird trip as is, ya know.

Penguin said...

Yep, short hair now also.
Way different than my Drivers license.
I liked it long but it was getting annoying because it kept getting caught up in stuff. The hair on my head was longer than my beard, mid back.
But I noticed another opps in your blog. Holland is still in Ottawa county.
"Its only me" I think in Michigan they cannot touch it or collect money on it. But don't quote me, I haven't bought booze in a place that has under age cashiers in a long time.

Melanie Avila said...

Welcome, It's Only Me! I waitressed at a restaurant in VA that allowed underage people to order and take money for alcohol, but someone 21 or older had to bring it to the table. Maybe they think you'll absorb the alcohol by osmosis?

Melanie Avila said...

Kris, you still need to tell me about it.

Melanie Avila said...

Penguin, I just trimmed an inch off my hair because it was getting caught on everything. I couldn't imagine that!

Thanks for pointing out my Holland blunder.

Rachel Burton said...

A lot of times I get so caught up in the presidential and congress races I neglect to take a look at what is going on locally (although we move a lot, so I never quite get a grasp on local politics before we ship away again). Last election though, we owned a house in Dearborn, MI and there was a referendum to allow a casino built in the city (if I'm remembering right). It was exciting to get to vote against that puppy and feel like I spoke out for something in the community!

spyscribbler said...

I hate those "yes means no" things. I read very, very, very carefully, because of it.

Man, I'm a nervous wreck. I keep popping over to your site, but then can't think of anything to say, LOL! I finally wrote another blog post on Palin, just for the fun of it.

spyscribbler said...

1% of 2 states are reporting here!!!!

Melanie Avila said...

Rachel, I remember that election because my gramma talked about it a lot. She's in St. Claire Shores.

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, you're making me MORE nervous!

spyscribbler said...

Indiana is tied 50 McCain/49 Obama! Yikes, yikes, yikes!

Melanie Avila said...

Stop it! It's early!

spyscribbler said...

Rocky start, but it's starting to look better. I'm so nervous! We drove home so I could watch TV.

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, I'm glad you're home now. My satellite signal blipped for a second and I nearly had a heart attack.

Stephen Parrish said...

Hi Melanie. I'm watching with you. My fingers are crossed.

We need a few more results before I relax.

Melanie Avila said...

No kidding. I need Ibis to hurry up and get home so I can stop swirling around the living room on my own!

spyscribbler said...

Melanie, CNN is being pretty hopeful about Obama's chances. I'm not panicking anymore. It's either CNN or the blackberry wine.

Melanie Avila said...

I can haz blackberry wine?

I'm STILL waiting for Ibis and the pizza.

spyscribbler said...

The gap is closing in Virginia!

Melanie's Mom said...

An important update -- with 33% of the precincts reporting, 66% of the electorate of Ottawa County have voted NO so that beer and wine can be sold on Sundays! I know you're all anxiously awaiting a final count on this one...

Melanie Avila said...

Ohio too!

Mom, that's awesome. Now I REALLY want to come home. :)

spyscribbler said...

No means yes, right? LOL! Yay! We just lifted the Sunday ban a year or two ago.

colbymarshall said...

I bet you're even more excited after what just happened at 11 pm... :-)

Melanie Avila said...

Yes I Am!

Stephen Parrish said...

The Republicans are out AND a dry county turned wet? Can it get any better than that?

Shadow_Ferret said...

47 comments! Wow.

I remember growing up in my city, a major metropolitan area, you couldn't buy liquor on Sundays. In fact, you couldn't buy much of anything. Nearly everything was closed on Sundays. But liquor, even though bars were still open and you could drink there, they weren't allowed to sell closed containers on Sundays.

Weird. And this in a city that has several taverns on every corner. But that was then. Somewhere along they way these "blue laws" which I think they were called, were finally repealed.

Melanie Avila said...

Stephen, it's a great day. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Ferret, I don't understand the midwest laws, I really don't.

And if you think I have a lot of comments, you should see the blog where I was hanging out during the countdown!