- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

DOVER, Del. — On their way to a recent Sunday dinner at a friend’s house, Ed and Alice Daino stopped at the store for two bottles of red wine — a transaction that would have been impossible just a few weeks ago.

In a sign that Prohibition-era restrictions are being eased, Delaware and New York have become the 25th and 26th states to allow Sunday sales at liquor stores — putting states with Sunday bans in the minority.

“It’s convenient,” said Mr. Daino, 67.

Delaware’s Sunday sales started May 18; the New York change came last weekend. Pennsylvania repealed the ban in February at 10 percent of its government-run stores as part of a two-year pilot study. Oregon did away with restriction a year ago.

Legislation has been considered this year in other states, including Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island and Washington.

The trend began 40 years ago when women began entering the peacetime work force in large numbers, said David Laband, an economic and policy professor at Auburn University and co-author of “Blue Laws: The History, Economics and Politics of Sunday-Closing Laws.”

“The time frame within which much of the shopping can be done for a family has been compressed into the weekend, with so many women working,” Mr. Laband said. “There’s been enormous economic opportunity for establishments to be open all weekend long.”

Industry officials say the rollback marks a convergence of lean budget times, economic competition between states and the continuing erosion of blue laws.

“I think the stars were in alignment,” said Jonathan Newman, chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. “If you can buy so many things on Sunday, what makes getting a bottle of wine for a spaghetti dinner inappropriate?”

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States has lobbied legislatures across the country to repeal blue laws.

“It’s a top legislative priority for this organization and for many retail groups across the country to finally fold up the last of the blue laws, the legacy of Prohibition,” council spokesman Frank Coleman said.

While opposition on moral grounds has been muted, the repeals have generated industry infighting, often pitting the owners of small stores against larger outlets.

“There is mom-and-pop opposition because it’s their day off, and that’s undeniable,” Mr. Coleman said. “If you don’t want to open on Sunday, don’t do it. But don’t stop somebody else from doing it.”

Kristine O’Hanlon of Karl’s Wine and Liquors in Albany, N.Y., president of the Eastern New York Liquor Stores Association, said she and most of her group’s 120 members don’t predict a sales increase, so they’ll stay closed on Sundays, for now.

“Nobody is going to drink more just because you can buy it on a Sunday now,” she said.

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