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.
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?)