Enacting Joy: The State of Wine, Consumers and Sunday
In every state where long-standing bans on sales of alcohol on Sunday have been lifted, consumers express their approval after having experienced the new convenience. This, predictably, appears to be the case in Connecticut where the long-standing ban on picking up a bottle of wine on Sunday was ended by the legislature and sales began in mid May. However, just as predictably, store owners remain unsatisfied by the change.
Why consumers would like the lifting of the old, religious-inspired restrictions on personal habits isn't too hard to understand. It's a fact of contemporary American life that consumerism and convenience now rank as important or more important to much of the body politic than is keeping the faith.
Store owners in places like Connecticut and Georgia, where state-wide bans on Sunday sales of alcohol have been lifted in recent years, were against the lifting of the ban when the changes in the law were debated. But they did not use the bible as their as the spear tip of their opposition. For store owners, it was a quality of life issue. The bans meant at least one day a week they didn't go into work without worry that competitors would reap the benefit of their day of rest. That changes when stores are able to open on Sunday and consumers decide where to buy their beer, wine and liquor.
Owners of liquor stores in these states now understand the modern realities of retailing.
But as the laws on Sunday sales have changed over the years, religion has played a role in opposition to the change. How could it not? Religion was the inspiration for the original bans on the sale and consumption of alcohol on Sundays when they were instituted by New England Puritans in late 16th and early 17th century America.
Many have made the case the the demise of the Sunday sales bans. When Massachusetts lifted its Sunday sales ban in 2003 a the behest of Governor Mitt Romney as part of a state stimulus package, the head of the MA Council of Churches, Reverend Diane Kessler, noted, "We saw the remaining liquor laws as a last vestige [of Sunday rest]. We see an unfortunate slippage into every day being the same. Consumerism … is in danger of becoming an idolatry."
Interestingly, New England, the home of Blue Laws, has evolved into the least religious section of the country. In a recent poll measuring the religiosity of Americans by state, VT, MA, NH, CT, ME and RI all ranked in the top 10 of least religious states.
Only a few states still have state-wide bans on Sunday sales, including Indiana and the District of Columbia. These states too will eventually give up the ghost, most likely due to economic pressures and the impact of losses of sales when folks cross state borders to get what they want.
I personally don't see any compelling argument for any state or locality keeping bans on Sunday sales of alcohol in place. Many localities in various states have the right to ban these sales, and many do as a reflection of local tradition, the religiosity of these communities and the fact that convenience isn't an issue since often the county next door allows Sunday sales.
In the end, it's hard not to side with consumer interests. And following up on yesterday's post on this blog, allowing citizens to buy a bottle of wine on Sunday is one more example of what's best for consumers.