Church support sought on drink ban

1995-12-30

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The movement to outlaw happy hours in Pinellas County picks up backing from the pastor of a large local group.

As you stock up for New Year’s Eve, keep this in mind: The folks who want to outlaw happy hour in Pinellas County are gaining momentum.

Clearwater lawyer Thomas Carey, who is leading the push against two-for-one drink specials, has lined up significant support in the religious community. Two city governments also are backing his effort to have a full public hearing on the matter before the County commission.

Commissioners dismissed the idea last month, saying they don’t want to get involved in that sort of regulation. During the brief, late night discussion, Commissioner Charles Rainey joked, “The two (drinks) are watered down anyway, aren’t they?”

Carey and his allies have refused to give up. They persuaded the city councils of Gulfport and Pinellas Park to pass resolutions in favor of a countywide hearing.

And they got the Rev. William E. Anderson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, to write a letter of support. Anderson is sending the letter to religious leaders around the county, asking them to support the campaign and circulate petitions among their congregations.

“All happy hours must be stopped,” Anderson wrote. “A public hearing will allow all sides to present their viewpoints so that we and our elected officials will have competent information with which to make our decisions on the need for the ban.”

Cavalry Baptist is a huge institution in downtown Clearwater, and the letter from Anderson is likely to get plenty of attention.

“The churches are going to be getting very involved, “Carey said.

Carey contends that happy hour has become a “DUI generator” in recent years as it has moved closer to closing time. Bar patrons are loading up just before they stagger toward their cars to go home, Carey says.

Carey, a trial lawyer, is a past state chairman of Mothers Against Drunk driving. His wife was killed in 1982 by a drunk driver. He says he is campaigning against happy hour on the county level because he figures the alcohol lobby is too powerful in the legislature.

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