To some, restricting Sunday alcohol sales saves lives. Others say it restricts business growth and freedom.

To some, restricting Sunday alcohol sales saves lives. Others say it restricts business growth and freedom.

Santa Rosa County switched from dry to wet in 2007, although it still bans Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated areas.

The Sunday alcohol sales ordinance changed last year in Navarre to make the mainland ordinance match the beach. Gulf Breeze already allows Sunday sales from noon to midnight and only beer and wine thereafter.

In November, Milton residents can vote whether they would like to permit Sunday alcohol sales.

So what could the county look like if Sunday sales were permitted? No one can say for sure, but opinions abound.

In May, Milton Councilwoman Patsy Lunsford and Councilman Grady Hester voted against letting Milton residents show, through a vote, whether they favor Sunday alcohol sales.

Lunsford said she lost a family member to alcohol dependency and feared more lives would be lost as a result of alcohol being more available.

Councilman Jimmy Messick said city residents should make this decision. He said the city will act according to the majority vote, although the city’s action still requires a majority vote from the council.

With Navarre’s blue laws matched to the beach now for roughly nine months, Commissioner Rob Williamson said he’d heard of no increase in crime or arrests as a result.

“I know all too well the negative impact alcohol abuse and addiction can cause,” said Williamson, a recovering alcoholic. “To say that not serving alcohol after midnight on Saturday is the reason why somebody is making those poor decisions is not something I agree with.”

Sam Mullins, the Santa Rosa Republican Executive Committee’s chairman, said he has no problem with Sunday alcohol sales in the county, though he understands why others do.

“I don’t like having nightclubs popping up and strip joints,” he said. “I haven’t seen that … I like an occasional drink with dinner, a weekend wine with steak.”

He described alcohol as a socially “accepted drug,” but one society has said adults can take.

Religious leaders in the county fall on different sides of the issue as well.

Hickory Hammock Baptist Church Senior Associate Pastor Dr. Greg Robards spoke against Sunday alcohol sales in Milton in May. He told the story of two young girls driving to church on a Sunday night killed in a head-on collision by a drunk driver. He later noted that the accident happened in the 1990s before the county became wet.

“I feel in my soul if the county votes this time to not allow Sunday liquor sales, those who want it will continue to push it on the next election,” he said. “It seems to me those pushing for it are doing so for their own agenda and will keep pushing for it.”

“… Sunday is for church-going folks,” he said. “They’re on the road all day (for services and to dine with family).”

Ferris Hill Baptist Church Senior Pastor Brian Nall said while he agrees some businesses may see additional revenue, he asked what kind of impact more alcohol would have on crime and accidents.

He said his church’s ministry helps people every day “with brokenness in their life or family connected back over 75 percent of the time to some type of alcohol-related factor that caused their broken state.”

Nall did say he’d like to see a “full study to know the exact impact both economically and to the rest of society as well.”

Monsignor Michael Reed, of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Milton, said he’s been in Milton since he was 5 years old, when people couldn’t buy anything on Sunday, let alone alcohol.

“I’d be in favor of Sunday sales,” Reed said. “I think most people are mature enough to be able to be responsible with Sunday sales of alcohol. I don’t think it would make those with an issue worse.”