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Connecticut’s Legislative Program Review and Investigations (PRI) committee held a public hearing Monday on the state’s current Sunday alcohol sales ban. 

Connecticut remains one of only three states in the entire nation that still prohibit Sunday sales of beer, wine and spirits. Indiana and Georgia are the other two.

The hearing, attended by about 100 people, lasted nearly four hours.  It was prompted by a recent PRI staff report that found Connecticut stood to gain up to $8 million in new tax revenues for the state annually from repealing the archaic ban. 

For pictures from the hearing and facts on Connecticut’s ban, click here.

“By its own estimate, the State of Connecticut would realize increased revenue in the form of additional excise tax and sales tax in the range of $7.5 to $8 million,” testified Jay Hibbard of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, referring to the independent PRI Committee’s December 2009 staff findings report.  “Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the week and in today’s dual income households most shopping is done on the weekend.  Allowing the sale of alcohol on Sunday gives adult consumers more choices and added convenience.”

Hibbard added that in this difficult economy, revenue gained by Sunday alcohol sales would not only create jobs for package stores, but would also save jobs destined for extinction from harsh budget cuts.

A Distilled Spirits Council op-ed recently published in the Oklahoman and highlighted how Sunday alcohol sales are a potential revenue-raising source for state legislators looking for more funding. 

Check it out here: Liquor Law Leaves Money on the Table.

Gov. Brad Henry recently described Oklahoma’s budget condition as a “crisis” and cautioned that “important programs throughout the state are suffering,” calling the situation “critical.” Not surprisingly, lawmakers are looking under every seat cushion at the Capitol for extra funds to keep programs running. However, at least one cushion has yet to be uncovered.

Check out this great article from Time Magazine on Blue Laws: Liquor Laws Make Valentine’s Day Blue

From the story:

“For the first time in more than a decade, Feb. 14 is falling on a Sunday — and that means in 14 states and hundreds of cities and counties across the U.S., liquor laws could be hampering toasts — and sales.”

Thing is, it’s not just Valentine’s Day either.  Consider just the week before football fans in those 14 states across the country were out of luck too if they wanted to throw a party (last minute) to watch the Big Game. 

These old Blue Laws have long outlived their relevance.

MSNBC ran a national story on the trend of state governments looking to raise revenue through loosening decades-old alcohol laws.

Here’s an excerpt:

The transformation of Lubbock from dry to wet is merely one example of a national trend toward looser restrictions on spirits, as local governments take a hard look at whether the social policy challenges of increased alcohol availability are outweighed by new tax revenue.  Dry areas are going wet, and others are liberalizing their laws by approving Sunday sales or sales in grocery and convenience stores.

Read the full article here:

Governments dip deeper into alcohol tax well; Dry areas going wet, others liberalizing laws to generate extra revenue

While the Indiana General Assembly’s Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverages has begun hearing from both sides, the Gary Post-Tribune yesterday editorialized in favor of two outdated prohibitions that need repeal: the ban on Sunday alcohol sales and the ban on selling alcohol while polls are open on Election Days. 

Indiana should lift 2 bans on alcohol

From the Post-Trib:

Indiana is one of just three states that has a complete ban on the sale of liquor when the polls are open.

Both prohibitions should be eliminated for a variety of reasons.

Prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Election Day — in taverns, restaurants and package liquor stores — is a throwback to the day when many polling places were in taverns.

It also was an effort to make it more difficult for unscrupulous politicians to buy votes by passing out bottles of alcohol to the homeless and those who stood in unemployment lines.

The Election Day prohibition not only doesn’t make sense today, it also hurts the state financially in terms of lost sales tax revenue. Shopkeepers also suffer because no one is walking through their doors while the polls are open.

The ban on the sale of alcohol on Sunday also makes no sense.

For example, Indiana law allows a person to order alcoholic beverages on a Sunday if he or she is in a tavern or restaurant.

But the law also prohibits package liquor stores, grocery stores and pharmacies from selling alcohol on Sundays.

In other words, the law is saying it is all right to go out to dinner, have a drink or two and then drive. But you can’t purchase alcohol at a liquor store for consumption at home. It’s time to make the changes.

Many municipalities in Mississippi (one of 14 states that still ban Sunday package sales statewide) allow liquor by the drink to be sold in bars and restaurants on Sundays. 

The NE Mississippi Daily Journal just editorialized in favor of allowing Sunday sales as a means to help the hospitality industry by attract more convention travelers and tourists. 

Here’s an excerpt:

We believe Sunday alcohol sales by the drink in Tupelo’s restaurants and beer from grocery and convenience stores is within the same economic persuasion: profitability and convenience. Our hotels and restaurants need the business of conventions and travelers. Restaurants and special events would make themselves more competitive with legal Sunday alcohol sales.

Read the full editorial here.

Indiana’s Fort Wayne Journal Gazette yesterday endorsed Sunday sales in an editorial calling on legislators to reopen the debate over the current prohibition.  Indiana is one of only three states in the entire country that still bans Sunday beer, wine and spirits sales at package stores. 

Read the editorial here: Liquor law deserves a second look

Here’s a teaser:

The additional revenue would be attractive, but the need to address the disconnect between allowing on-premises consumption on Sundays and prohibiting sales for consumption at home is an even more compelling reason to re-examine one of the last remaining blue laws on the books.

Tennessee was one of a handful of states that forced liquor stores to close on Saturday, July 4th.  Since Tennessee also bans Sunday package store sales, store owners had to turn away shoppers for an entire weekend.  Check out this op-ed that published in Nashville’s Tennessean

A state strapped for cash should look to antiquated liquor laws

From the article:

As would-be consumers spend Sundays flocking to malls, shopping for groceries and eating at restaurants, Tennessee’s package-store owners have no choice but to turn customers away at the door. As a result, the state stubbornly flushes millions in much-needed tax revenue down the drain while forcing store owners to unwittingly inconvenience their culturally modern customers.

The Register-Citizen came out with an excellent editorial in favor of Sunday sales this week:

Read it here:  Repealing blue laws could work in state’s favor

Some great points from the clip:

  • Repealing blue laws in Connecticut is one of the no-brainers the state legislature could enact with immediate positive benefit for the state.
  • So what is the legislature waiting for? Maybe when it sees all the tax revenue garnered on July 4, members of Connecticut’s General Assembly will say, “Hey, that’s money we’re missing out on.”
  • Before core services are cut or taxes are raised, doing away with an outmoded law that does nothing but restrict business and freedom should be considered.

–81.5% of Recent Alcohol Elections Go “Wet”–

Texas voters overwhelmingly said “YES” to alcohol sales in “dry” cities and counties on May 9th, the latest in a statewide trend toward modernizing outdated liquor laws in cities and counties. 

“Clearly, Texans are thirsty for modernization,” said Distilled Spirits Council Vice President Dale Szyndrowski – noting that out of 38 total alcohol elections, 31 passed for a 81.5% success rate.  “Residents understand that modernizing local alcohol laws increase revenues and economic activity while providing added consumer convenience.”

Szyndrowski stated that since the Texas State Legislature changed state law in 2003 to make it less complicated to hold “wet/dry” elections, more than 500 petitions have been issued authorizing local option elections and more than 350 elections have been held.  For those elections since 2003, over 80% have voted in favor of alcohol sales. 

“This steady surge of local option alcohol elections shows that Texans want modern alcohol laws similar to those common throughout the rest of the country,” Szyndrowski said.  “Adults can now make purchases closer to home rather than having to drive miles out of the way – and, the community gets the tax revenue.”

Szyndrowski said that Texas is one of a number of states across the country modernizing outdated alcohol laws to generate revenue, noting that since 2002, 14 states have allowed Sunday spirits sales for a total of 36 states.

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