Martenn said he has contacted about 45 area churches and provided phone numbers to reach Bi-Lo corporate headquarters in Mauldin, S.C., if church members wish to lodge a complaint. LaFayette Bi-Lo began selling the packaged beverages last week. On Saturday, Marteen left packets of information with the various churches, he said.
Martenn also helped spearhead a drive that brought members of 25 area congregations together in August 2000 to protest beer and wine sales at LaFayette Wal-Mart Supercenter weeks before the store’s scheduled opening. A few days after that meeting, Wal-Mart’s corporate office in Bentonville, Ark., reversed its stance on the alcohol issue, announcing the LaFayette store would not sell alcoholic beverages.
“Families shop there in those areas like Bi-Lo,” Martenn said. “I guess our big fear is Wal-Mart would follow suit with Bi-Lo — that’s a little bit different than a convenience store. There is a lot of people that do not go to convenience stores for that reason.”
Bi-Lo corporate officials and the LaFayette store manager could not be reached Monday for comment.
Bryan Hall Jackson, a member of LaFayette City Council and LaFayette First Baptist Church, said he considers the decision to sell beer and wine a business decision.
“Dollars and cents are what keep the doors open,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to see Bi-Lo close up like (LaFayette) Food Lion did (in January). Then we would have another empty building on our hands.”
Jackson said city residents who want to buy beer while shopping for groceries should be able to do so without stopping at a second store.
“If they can sell at the Alpine (a LaFayette packaged beverage store), why shouldn’t they be able to sell it at Bi-Lo?” he asked.
Area clergy are showing different levels of support for Martenn’s measures.
“I will not, from the pulpit, encourage my congregation one way or the other,” said Jay Neal, pastor at Gordon Lake Wesleyan Church and a former state representative candidate. “I’ll let the people make the decision, but I will make them aware of it and post the information.”
“I’m not sure how many people in the community are truly offended by the fact it is there,” Neal said. “I do agree there are plenty of places where people who want to purchase alcohol can do it without bringing it into the supermarkets.”
Melvin Bridges, pastor at Gospel Light Christian Fellowship Church and a councilman in LaFayette, prompted his congregation to call the grocery chain to complain. Bridges said Bi-Lo has wanted to sell alcohol for a long time, but could not because it was too close to the old LaFayette High School.
“I’m against it,” Bridges said. “I just hate to see them do it. I told church members to call that number.
“At least we voiced our opinion, and that’s all we can do. If they are going to do it, they’re going to do it.”
Martenn said he feels if alcohol should be sold, it should stay in convenience stores and out of grocery stores.
Rossville Bi-Lo began selling packaged beer and wine in January after the Rossville City Council voted to allow packaged sales within the city limits. Food Lion in Rossville also sells packaged beer and wine; however, Bi-Lo on Mission Ridge Road does not sell alcohol