Blue Laws

R Street: It's Time for Texas to Permit Sunday Liquor Sales


We recently discussed West Virginia’s passage of legislation legalizing Sunday liquor sales, and now Texas is considering doing the same thing. R Street’s Josiah Neeley, a resident of the Lone Star state, wrote for the American Spectator about why Texas lawmakers should embrace this reform:

Texas laws governing alcohol have their own quirks. Take Sunday sales, for example. Texas is one of a handful of states that maintains a ban on certain types of alcohol sales on Sundays. Whatever the original motivation of the Sunday sales ban, the current version is so shot through with exemptions as to make it arbitrary and senseless. Sales of hard liquor on Sunday are prohibited, but only if they are for off-site consumption. Bars can still serve hooch, and stores can still sell wine and beer. It goes without saying that you can still buy as much liquor as you want on Monday through Saturday and then drink it on Sunday…

Folks who favor economic liberty want these anachronistic rules wiped away. Meanwhile, voters worried about Texas’ public coffers can also take heart—permitting drinks sales each day of the week may generate more sales tax revenue. And consumers certainly would like these needless hassles eliminated.

While modest, bills like these are a sign that Texas’ attitudes towards liquor aren’t encased in amber. Times change, and the laws governing drinks should reflect that…

Read the whole piece here.

The Benefits of Legalizing Sunday Liquor Sales


Numerous states around the country still restrict or prohibit the sale of distilled spirits on Sundays, a Prohibition era relic known as “blue laws.” Last year, Minnesota took steps to legalize Sunday sales, and now a wave of additional states—including West Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina—are considering similar legislation. Doing so is a good idea from both a revenue-raising perspective and as a freedom-enhancing measure. A recent article for the Duluth News Tribune by Lindsey Stroud of the Heartland Institute recaps the economic success stemming from Minnesota’s reform:

July 2019 will mark two years since Minnesota repealed its Prohibition-era ban on selling alcohol on Sundays. In 2017, then-Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, signed legislation "allowing for the sale of alcohol from stores on Sundays between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m."…

To understand the impact of Sunday sales, it's actually better to look at excise tax collections. An estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of all sales, as measured in volume, occur at off-premise establishments. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, the state collected an estimated $86.8 million in annual excise taxes during the pre-Sunday sales period. Since Sunday sales began, excise taxes have increased to $90.4 million, a growth rate of 4.2 percent. Typically, alcohol tax revenue grows around 2 percent to 2.5 percent annually. Sunday sales in Minnesota seems to have generated a much higher revenue growth rate.

Moreover, with full-strength beer sales boosted as well, it's safe to say that Sunday sales has provided an economic gain to Minnesotans and will continue to do so…

Stroud’s entire article is well worth a read (here).

West Virginia (Finally) On the Brink of Legalizing Sunday Sales


For the past several years, the West Virginia legislature has attempted to legalize Sunday liquor sales but has been unable to get the reform across the finish line. This year, a bill allowing Sunday sales to start at 1pm has now passed the state legislature and is headed to the governor’s desk:

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted 86-12 to pass legislation Tuesday night that would allow Sunday retail sales of liquor in in the state, excluding Christmas Day and Easter Sunday…

If House Bill 2481 becomes law, Sunday retail sales of liquor would be allowed beginning at 1 p.m., but the current prohibition of retail sales on Christmas Day would remain in effect.

In passing the bill on Tuesday, the House of Delegates accepted a Senate amendment to the house bill to prohibit Easter Sunday sales…

Read the rest here.

W.V. Legislature Again Considers Sunday Sales


For the last several years , West Virginia has considered proposals to allow Sunday liquor sales—an idea which has proven somewhat controversial in the state. The state legislature is once again considering reform this year, and WV Metro News reports that legislation has passed the state House by large margins and now heads to the Senate:

The House of Delegates has passed a bill that would allow the sale of liquor on Sundays.

Currently, liquor cannot be sold on Sunday in West Virginia.

“This bill seeks to change that by putting liquor sales on equal footing with beer sales,” said Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

That means liquor could be sold from 1 p.m. to midnight on Sundays…

Read more here.

States such as Indiana and Minnesota have also overturned their blue laws in recent years.

Texas Legislature Considers Reforming "Blue Laws"


Under current Texas law, liquor stores (but not grocery stores and other retail outlets) are prohibited from opening on Sundays. According to ABC 7, state lawmakers are considering repealing this antiquated blue law:

New legislation introduced in the Texas House would repeal so-called "blue laws" and allow liquor stores to open on Sunday.

State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, has introduced House Bill 1100, which would allow package stores (a.k.a. liquor stores) to be open seven days a week…

42 states allow the sales of spirits on Sunday. Texas already allows Sunday sales of all other alcohol beverages for all other retailers, including bars, restaurants, clubs, grocery and convenience stores and hotels…

Read more here.

Tennessee Officially Approves Sunday Wine and Spirits Sales


Tennessee's legislature has officially signed off on allowing Sunday wine and distilled spirits sales. According to the Tennessean, Gov. Bill Haslam will sign the bill into law:

Sunday wine sales are coming to Tennessee.

The Tennessee General Assembly this week approved legislation allowing Tennesseans to buy wine in grocery stores on Sundays and most holidays, and Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he will sign it into law. 

The Senate on Wednesday voted 17-11 in favor of the bill — just two days after the House approved the measure. The bill would also allow liquor stores to open on Sundays.

Although the margin of the vote appears wide, the 17 votes in favor were the bare minimum needed to approve the bill. One less vote and the measure would have failed. 

There was a rare audible gasp inside the chamber after the vote was tallied. 

The Senate's passage of the measure sends it to Haslam's desk...

Read more here.

Georgia Could Be Latest State to Expand Sunday Sales

Just off the heels of Indiana repealing its Sunday blue law, Georgia could be on the brink of passing a "brunch bill" that would expand on-premise alcohols sales to Sunday morning. According to the AP, the bill would allow restaurants and wineries to serve alcohol starting at 11 a.m.:

A proposal to allow Georgians to purchase alcohol at restaurants and wineries on Sunday mornings is headed to the governor's desk.

House lawmakers voted 97-64 on Monday to allow on-premise consumption to begin at 11 a.m. on Sundays.

If the bill is signed into law, earlier sales would have to be approved in local referendums.

Gov. Nathan Deal's spokeswoman declined to say whether the governor intends to sign the measure.

GOP Rep. Meagan Hanson of Brookhaven says earlier sales would generate an additional $11 million in state and local tax revenue.

Off-premise sales, such as those at supermarkets, would remain illegal until 12:30 p.m. on Sundays...

Read more here.




West Virginia Considers Allowing Sunday Sales for Distilled Spirits


The West Virginia legislature is considering a bill that would, among other reforms, allow Sunday sales of distilled spirits in the Mountain State. The Herald Mail Media reports that the bill would allow statewide hard spirit sales on Sundays after 10 a.m. as well as Sunday sales at distilleries:

Counties and home-rule municipalities currently can decide whether to allow restaurants and other licensed establishments to begin Sunday alcohol sales, but an alcohol administration official said the lack of uniformity across the state has created a "logistical nightmare."

Thirteen counties, including Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, and 18 home-rule municipalities, including Martinsburg, Charles Town, Ranson and Shepherdstown, allow Sunday sales.

Among other changes, the bill proposes allowing Sunday retail sales of liquor at a distillery or mini-distillery on Sundays at 10 a.m., a change area distillery owners wanted.

It appears that beer wholesalers and The Family Policy Council of West Virginia are both opposing this reform by ginning up scary hypothetical headlines such as: "Drunk Driver Kills a Bunch of Kids Coming Out of Church After Sunday School." Given that Sunday sales of beer and wine are already permissible in West Virginia, this line of argument is less than persuasive. In an age when a glass of a high-ABV craft beer can contain as much or more alcohol as a shot of liquor, it is irrational to draw arbitrary distinctions between different kinds of alcoholic beverages.

The reality is that 40 states currently allow Sunday sales of hard spirits and more are following suit. Minnesota repealed its Sunday sales ban last year, and Indiana overturned its version of a blue law just this week. The trend here is toward more freedom, and West Virginians are right to not want to be left behind. 




The Drinks Are Freed: Indiana Finally Allows Sunday Sales


We've noted in the past that Indiana has one of the most stringent Sunday blue laws on the books--it forbid all sales of carryout alcohol on Sundays. But now, after years of wrangling, state lawmakers have finally voted to allow Sunday booze sales and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed the measure. Drinks writer Chuck Cowdery recaps:

"This Sunday, for the first time ever, Indiana's liquor stores will be open for business. Indiana becomes the 41st state to allow Sunday liquor sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

You might expect liquor store owners to celebrate the change, but they won't. Such is the peculiarity of politics in the highly-regulated world of alcohol.

Consumers, of course, almost universally favor Sunday sales. Those with religious objections are mainly the ones who don't. Also unhappy about the change are liquor retailers in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky who enjoyed a little extra business on Sundays from thirsty Hoosiers..."

Read Chuck's full post here.

As Chuck notes, Indiana lawmakers weren't able to clear away all of the state's antiquated booze laws. The Hoosier State's infamous "warm beer law" still remains in place.




Sunday Alcohol Sales On the Brink of Passage in Indiana


We've been extensively covering the push to repeal Indiana's "blue law," which is one of the most restrictive in the country. According to the Indianapolis Star, a bill allowing Sunday carryout alcohol sales is finally on the brink of passage:

"Hoosiers could begin purchasing carryout alcohol on Sunday for the first time in state history on March 4, barring any unexpected developments at the Statehouse. 

That date is not certain, but it does seem likely after the the Indiana House voted 82-10 on Tuesday to end the state's unpopular ban on Sunday take-out alcohol sales.

The measure still requires one more vote in the Senate, but it is largely procedural since the Senate already passed an almost identical version. It would then go to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has said he plans to sign it into law. 

That puts the bill on pace to be signed into law as early as next week, and because it was recently amended to take effect upon passage, Hoosiers could purchase alcohol the following Sunday, March 4..."

Read the rest here.