ZEPHYRHILLS — City officials have taken the first step toward allowing earlier Sunday alcohol sales, acknowledging Zephyrhills' strict ban puts local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
City Council gave initial approval Monday night to an ordinance that would allow Sunday alcohol sales to start at 11 a.m., on par with the surrounding area. For years, the city has been the last pocket of Pasco County to prohibit Sunday alcohol sales before 1 p.m.
The measure is up for a final vote Sept. 13.
A year ago, the council refused to budge on its blue law. But some local restaurants and convenience stores recently renewed the push to relax the law, saying the ban costs them business on Sundays.
"I believe we need to level the playing field when it comes to economic activity," said council member Tim Urban.
Council members Manny Funes and Lance Smith cast dissenting votes, arguing the later sales time should remain intact.
"I believe Zephyrhills is identified as a hometown city and we've got some hometown values," Funes said. "We've got (Alcoholics Anonymous) programs right here in the city. We're all hypocrites to some degree."
The complaints from business owners didn't sway Smith.
"I understand the business side of it," Smith said. "It's a personal thing for me and I won't support it."
The vote was a victory to some downtown Zephyrhills business owners, many of whom gathered after the council meeting to chat.