COLUMBUS — Customers will soon be able to order a Bloody Mary or pick up a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at local businesses on Sunday mornings.

Columbus City Council members voted 5-2 Tuesday night to authorize hard liquor sales beginning at 6 a.m. on Sundays.

Beth Augustine-Schulte and John Lohr opposed the measure and Rich Jablonski abstained from voting since he’s a part-owner of Ramada-Columbus.

Council members Troy Hiemer, Ron Schilling, Charlie Bahr, Dennis Kresha and Prent Roth cast votes in favor of the rule change.

Currently, beer and wine can be sold in Columbus from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. any day of the week. The same hours apply to hard liquor sales, except on Sundays, when purchases can’t be made until noon.

That will change Jan. 17, when the new ordinance takes effect. It covers drinks served at a bar, restaurant or similar establishment and package liquor purchased to go.

Nobody spoke for or against the measure during Tuesday night's meeting, but there has been plenty of discussion on the issue in the past couple of months.

Local business owners supporting the change argued the ban is outdated, complicated for employees and unfair to customers, including those who work overnight shifts and are looking for a drink on Sunday mornings. They also believe it will be beneficial during special events that bring people in from out of town.

Nearly 20 people — a mix of Columbus bar, restaurant, liquor store and convenience store representatives — showed up at the Nov. 20 city council meeting to support the amended ordinance and a handful were present Tuesday night.

Augustine-Schulte has been the most outspoken opponent of Sunday morning hard liquor sales, saying any move that loosens the rules governing alcohol consumption will exacerbate existing problems here.

She delivered a seven-minute address during the Dec. 4 meeting, telling her fellow council members that approving this change would send the wrong message to the community about alcohol use.

Police Chief Chuck Sherer also opposed Sunday morning sales, saying the “community standard” shouldn’t be changed so businesses can serve a few extra Bloody Marys that day.

Nebraska began allowing hard liquor sales beginning at 6 a.m. on Sundays in 2012, but it’s up to individual communities and counties to set the rules for their jurisdictions. Columbus City Council members voted 5-3 against the proposal when it first came up in 2013.

Mayor Jim Bulkley has called the proposal a “business situation,” saying the city needs to consider what local business owners want and trust them to manage it responsibly.

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Editor

Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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