Enacting Joy: The State of Wine, Consumers and Sunday

JoyIn 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.

11 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - August 7, 2012

    When you mentioned retailers this way: “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.” you displayed an understanding of the retail alcohol trade.
    I think the word “myopic” describes a majority of alcohol retail with an upcoming minority of hyperopics.

  2. Marlene Rossman - August 7, 2012

    It’s getting harder to understand why my home state of New York, does not allow wine/spirits to be sold on Sunday.
    Maybe that’s why I moved to California!
    In all seriousness, we came here in 2002 as “refugees” from the 9/11 disaster. We lived very close to the Trade Center and I worked at some private events as sommelier IN THE TRADE CENTER. However, I watched the destruction unfold from my 17th floor terrace, less than half a mile away.

  3. Thomas Pellechia - August 7, 2012

    New York has allowed wine retailing on Sunday for the past five years or so.
    Come on home…

  4. Marlene Rossman - August 8, 2012

    Thanks, Tom! I guess I have been out of Manhattan and in “La La Land” getting my brains baked in the sun too long!

  5. Hermes Outlet - August 9, 2012

    Worth reading this article, Thank you for sharing this information. Not the same theme, a good platform and so much of the wire.

  6. Gregg - August 10, 2012

    Tom Conn decision hurts more then it helps. Look at every state that has changed Sunday ban on liquors sales and how much it has impacted the retailers. NJ changed back in the early 80’s and from talking to people who owned stores at that time it only lead to higher overhead. All that happens is that business shifts from Sat to Sunday. I am open 7 days a week and 363 day a year.
    Tom P where is the myopathy? I am gussing you have never been in retail, and never as an owner of a small business. When you fight as hard as we do for every dime, and consistantly try to evolve to be better at service than the big box competitors who excel only at cutting the bottom line. Holding on to a day off is not myopic it is about sanity it is about family it is about for a day being able to be a civilian like yourself.

  7. Tom Wark - August 10, 2012

    Believe me when I tell you I understand the value you place on the day off. I treasure the days I have to myself and family. But the ban on Sunday sales makes no sense. Do you really think the govt. ought to dictate what day business owners must rest? Further, from the consumers perspective, what possible value is there in dictating on what day the consumer ought to be permitted to browse the wine aisles?

  8. Gregg - August 11, 2012

    If it is place keep it, you can not put it back in place. Mostly it costs small businesses money. In this economy the last thing a small business needs is more expense. There is not enough new business generated to cover the added expense of being open that 7th day. I live in county with blue laws where most retail has to be closed, and it is awesome, One day where traffic is not a snarl, it is a quality of life issue. Not just for me but for my community. They have tried to overturn it a number of times and people fight to keep it. Let’s fix all the other greater intrusions on our liberty by the government first. Then people can worry about not being able to buy wine on a sunday.

  9. Tom Wark - August 11, 2012

    Would you support a law that mandated the closing of all businesses on Sunday? That’s the implication of your position on this.

  10. Gregg - August 13, 2012

    In most businesess their is a form of self regulation. Courts are closed on Sat and Sunday. Wall street is closed on Sat & Sunday,the Federal Government is closed on Sat & Sunday, all the businesses associated with these are closed. If all these people had to work because if they did not they would lose business/money then you would see full campaigns to have a national day of rest. Because it is limited to those of us in retail, we are evil government expanding heatens. Or am I off base? So yes I do support everything being closed on Sunday or what ever day can be agreed upon. People survived and in many places still do without the ability to shop 24/7.

  11. Tom Wark - August 13, 2012

    I give you lots of credit for consistency of your argument. It doesn’t always happen.

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