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Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Sales Laws and why they are still around

I see a press release from the TPSA (and that's not the Technology Service Professionals Association, or The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance, or Telekomunikacja Polska SA; in this case it's the Texas Package Store Association, the lobbying arm of Texas liquor store owners) today in a clipping service I subscribe to (it's funny; go to TPSA's website, (this link has been taken off the TPSA website, and they don't appear to have a copy of their own press release on their site...) and you'll see the press release quoted as "the full article featured in Mark Brown's Industry News Update"; guys, you sent in the press release, and it's a clipping service, so that's not a featured article).

Sorry about that huge sentence; I had a lot to say. The release is calling DISCUS out for their claims for the advent of Sunday sales in Colorado liquor stores. DISCUS, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., is the industry group for American distillers and spirits marketers, and they've been doing a lot of work, successfully, on prying the dead hand of 'blue laws' off American spirits sales. They're claiming that an increase of $2 million in booze tax revenues in Colorado is related to that state allowing Sunday sales at liquor stores.

The TPSA is saying that it's just not so, and gives several responses: it's not really spirits taxes, they can't say that it's due to Sunday sales, taxes are actually down, taxes overall are up, it's up less than DISCUS said it would be...they really loaded up the blunderbuss and let fly with everything they had.

I'm not here to comment on whether DISCUS is right or not.* I'd just like to look at why the TPSA is so dead-set against what would appear to be something they'd want; the ability to open on Sundays, to get out from under a law that requires them to close their stores one day a week. Would Target be in favor of such a law? Would supermarkets or convenience stores? Gas stations, restaurants, shopping malls: would any business be in favor of such a law? Hard to believe, but liquor stores are. At least, some of them, and not just in Texas.

What's up with that? Well, folks, it's because liquor stores get to be closed for a day -- no expenses, no employees to pay, none of those annoying customers to worry about -- without having to worry about their competitors being open and doing the business they could, because all liquor stores are required to be closed. Whew. Lock it up, let's go fishing (but first, let's buy sammiches at the Acme store, gas up at Wawa, and pick up some new lures at Bass Pro; they're all open on Sunday).

They'll wrap it up in "think of the children" bullshit, like they're somehow doing God's work by not making alcohol more available (and then usually turn around and also say that being open an extra day makes no difference in sales; not long on logic, these groups, they depend more on firing out everything they can think of regardless of how internally contradictory it may be). That's when they really make me nuts: if you're doing such a wonderful thing by making alcohol less available, why don't you just close your damned store and do the community a real service?

Sunday sale restrictions, control state rules, the case law, ABV beer caps, even licensing laws are all anti-consumer laws. They are either about money, or paternalistic state control. I'd like to put them all in one big pile and dynamite them to hell.

*DISCUS chief economist David Ozgo challenged their math: "The TPSA should get a new economist. Purposefully or not, TPSA looked at a single month of liquor sales in July 2008 and compared it to a different single month - August 2009 - and subtracted the difference. They conveniently failed to take into account the effect from a full year of sales." From Wine & Spirits Daily


Anonymous said...

I live in CT, where we have no alcohol sales on sunday. A few years ago, the state waived the law for a day when Christmas Eve fell on a sunday and many of the stores threw a fit about all of the business they'd lose when they had to close on one of the biggest booze-buying days of the year. The stores that didn't raise hell over this raised an equal amount for having to open on sunday just to keep up with the competition as Lew mentions in this post. Seems like a no-win situation at times.

Erik Huntoon said...

There is a movement to get Sunday sales going here in Indiana and the biggest opposition is the liquor stores. The movement is to not only open up Sunday sales but to also allow the grocery stores to sell cold beer, not just warm. Well the liquor stores don't want us to be able to buy cold beer where we get our groceries. Long story short.. the bill keeps getting stalled before it ever gets a chance at a vote. Sad really.

Lew Bryson said...

Never ceases to amaze me. One, the trivial policies that are enshrined in booze law: no cold beer sales, the case law/two 6pack limit, no sales at gas stations, ABV caps on beer (but none on wine), different taxes for different beverages, and on and on. And two, the way consumers' wishes about purchase of what is, after all, a legal beverage that you don't need any kind of prescription or license to buy, are throroughly ignored by the legislatures.

Huckaby said...

Sundays are made for worship and church going, not for alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Lew, Thank goodness they went to ACME for their sammiches, because if they wanted Chik-Fil-A (anywhere) they'd be SOL on a Sunday.

From MD where we have no beer sales in Baltimore County, or Beer & Wine sold in grocery/convienence stores or mail order beer or wine shipments!

Anonymous said...

Same thing happening in Tennessee. A few liquor stores don't want to open on Sundays; so they see to it that NO LIQUOR STORES are able to open on Sunday. If you don't want to open, stay closed. But don't tell me I can't open. What ever happened to competition and free enterprise?

The Professor said...

"Sundays are made for worship and church going, not for alcohol"
From what I've seen, for an awful lot of people Sundays are made for worship and church going AND alcohol. LOL.

Seriously though, thinking back to when I was growing up, I can't recall ever _not_ seeing quart pitchers of draft Ballantine Ale on every table at our Hungarian church dinners. It was just normal (as it should be).

Lew Bryson said...

Where's football fit in there?

Scoats said...

They are probably right that their weekly sales whether open 6 days or 7 days a week would be about the same. But that's only IF they can't lose out to their competition.

You are very right Lew that they don't want to lose their day off. But this is the 20th Century, successful, active businesses of all sizes need to open when their customers want to spend money there.