NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cash-Strapped States Turning to Sunday Liquor Sales

May 20, 2003

The most durable of the nation's old blue laws -- bans on Sunday liquor sales -- are crumbling. Four of the five most populous states now allow liquor stores to open on Sundays. By letting liquor stores open on Sundays, the states can then collect more revenues from excise taxes on liquor, on sales taxes and on liquor store profits.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware and New York State Legislature recently indicated they will allow limited Sunday sales. Oregon began allowing Sunday liquor sales last year while, Pennsylvania began allowing Sunday early this year. The laws could be dropped or relaxed soon in Kansas, Rhode Island and Washington.

  • The fiscal economics of liquor consumption have been bringing legislatures along: Consumption of liquor in the 24 states without Sunday sales is 1.65 gallons per capita a year, the Distilled Spirits Council says, compared with 2.02 gallons per capita in states with Sunday sales.
  • For Delaware, Sunday sales would raise the state's annual alcoholic beverage tax revenues $960,000 to $1.2 million and would raise all state and local tax revenues $1.7 million to $2.1 million.
  • By letting New York stores open six days a week (including Sunday) would raise $26.7 million in additional state tax revenue and $36 million more if it allowed them all seven days.

Proponents of the new law said they had heard little from religious or temperance groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Amazingly, most opposition to Sunday liquor sales arose from small package stores. Package stores are small with little or no staff. To compete the owners would have to work Sundays. Owners of big stores who promoted the change have large and flexible staffs.

Source: Peter T. Kilborn, "Hard-Pressed States Try Sunday Liquor Sales," New York Times, May 19, 2003.


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