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Texas: Texans are no less thirsty on Sundays

Source: The Statesman
Ben Jenkins
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Imagine if the State of Texas told a small business owner, “We don’t think you can profit selling sandwiches on Wednesdays, so you and all other businesses that sell sandwiches have to close on Wednesdays. It’s state law.” Seems intrusive and unrealistic in a free market, right? Well, it happens every Sunday to liquor store owners.
Every Sunday, 2,400 Texas liquor stores are forced to shut their doors on the second busiest shopping day of the week. It doesn’t matter if it’s Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve or your monthly book club. It’s state law – and it costs the state millions annually.
But every Sunday across Texas there are more than 30,000 other locations that do sell alcohol. More than 20,000 grocery and convenience stores sell beer and wine on Sundays, and more than 10,000 bars and restaurants sell beer, wine and spirits on Sundays. And why shouldn’t they? Many of us enjoy drinking a beer during the game or having a glass of wine or a cocktail with dinner on Sunday night.
Regardless of the reasons – Texans are no less thirsty on Sundays.
As the Legislature moves through the special session looking for revenue, I urge policymakers to consider a bill to repeal Texas’s law banning Sunday liquor sales by package stores, House Bill 3685. This bill gives business owners the right to make a simple business decision: whether or not to open Sundays. If not, they have all the right to remain closed. The point is it should be their right, their choice.
The state law banning Sunday alcohol sales at package stores is an outdated prohibition from a bygone era. It no longer makes sense in today’s economy, whether in Texas or anywhere else in the country. In fact, most states have already removed similar laws. Since 2002, 15 states have repealed their Sunday sales bans for a total of 37 states. Even Georgia passed Sunday sales in April in response to consumer demand.
It’s not difficult to figure out why.
Today, Sunday is the second-busiest retail shopping day of the week. We spend our Sundays with our families; but also we spend them out and about, shopping at malls, eating and drinking in restaurants, and seeing the sights. Sunday is a major day for economic activity in Texas for all businesses but one: liquor stores.
As Texas’s 2,400 liquor store owners turn customers away at the door – many of whom are just out making their weekly grocery run – the impact is devastating both immediately and residually. First, the customer is inconvenienced. Second, the business loses the much-needed revenue from not making a sale. And third, the State Treasury collects zero from those forfeited sales.
Aside from believing in a free market and customer convenience, the revenue aspect should be attractive to legislators looking for new revenue to help shore up the budget gap. Sunday liquor sales could generate millions in new revenue without having to raise taxes or cut important programs. On one hand, Sunday sales could help create jobs at package stores while on the other save jobs that would be eliminated by tough budget cuts. Earlier this year, the Legislative Budget Board issued a report scoring Sunday sales at $7.4 million. That’s a lot to leave on the table when funding to education and other vital programs are under threat. Other studies have shown the gain could be as much as $12 million.
Some opponents argue that Sunday sales will lead to social harm. Government data on states that have passed Sunday sales have shown no negative social impact. Logically that makes sense. Most alcohol is already available on Sunday, particularly in bars and restaurants. It’s only the package retail stores that are prohibited from opening. Those sales go to customers who consume at home.
There is no legitimate policy reason for the state to interfere for one day each week in a tiny segment of one industry. Texas liquor store owners should have the right to open on Sundays if they choose and the marketplace allows. At its heart this legislation is not about liquor on Sundays – it’s about economic freedom.
Texans pride themselves on free enterprise. Now it’s time to live up to that reputation by repealing the outdated, outmoded and unnecessary ban on Sunday liquor sales.
Ben Jenkins is vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, whose organization represents thousands of spirits brands sold in Texas.