Early confidence turned to disappointment for anti-alcohol advocates Tuesday night when Dalton voters approved a referendum that will permit the sale of alcohol in hotels and restaurants on Sunday.

Voters approved the referendum 53.87 percent to 46.13 according to unofficial results. The only outstanding votes at press time were a small number of provisional ballots.

Members of the Citizens Against Alcohol Sales met at the Georgia Baptist Convention regional office on Pentz Street in Dalton for prayer and to follow the voting.

Confident group members had prepared a press release saying why they were glad to see the referendum fail, but were unprepared when the measure passed.

Instead they voiced their displeasure.

“We’re disappointed that the city has chosen the influence of money over the influence of God,” said the Rev. Gary Mimbs, senior pastor at Dalton First Church of the Nazarene and member of Citizens Against Alcohol Sales.

“We can only pray for God’s hand of protection over the innocent lives now at risk because of increased sales of alcohol.”

Dalton Hospitality Association president T.J. Kaikobad, whose group asked the Dalton City Council to put the referendum on the ballot in May, was thrilled with the results.

“I feel the people have spoken,” Kaikobad said. “They don’t want the government to dictate what they do.”

Kaikobad said the new law will be a boon to local businesses.

“We’re now on an even playing field. We will realize a development at the Trade Center. We will see more businesses coming to town. All that put together has a strong economic impact for the community.”

Citizens Against Alcohol Sales opposed the referendum from the beginning, saying it would cause an increase in drunk driving and other alcohol related crimes.

Others said it violated the Sabbath for some religious groups and would take away the last day of the week where Christians could go to dinner without having to be around alcoholic beverages.

Kaikobad said that Dalton residents should have the option of buying alcohol on Sunday if they chose.

Similar referendums were voted down in 2000 and 2001.

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