As someone whose Sabbath doesn’t fall on Sunday, I’ve always resented Connecticut’s antiquated Blue Laws. We’re one of only three states left in the country (CT, GA and IN) that still ban the sale of beer, wine and liquor on Sunday.
I’m fortunate that I live close to the border and can make the trip to nearby Port Chester if I’ve had a busy week and can only do my booze shopping (for medicinal purposes only, you understand) on a Sunday. But with Connecticut facing 9.4 percent unemployment and a $3.7 billion budget deficit, it seems ludicrous that I’m still forced to waste the gas and support New York stores and revenue collectors, instead of my local wine merchant and my own state’s economy.
The CT State Package Store Association, a perennial opponent of Sunday sales, lists a variety of reasons why it is a bad idea. One is the pressure on the small Mom and Pop package stores, which would either have to work seven days a week or (the horror!) employ someone to work on the seventh day.
Every other small business that sells goods and services in the state of Connecticut makes the decision if it should stay open on Sunday in order to compete with larger businesses that sell similar goods and services and remains open seven days a week. Why do package stores deserve a state law granting them special treatment because of our vestigial Puritanical past?
A Jan. 14 memo from the Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that alcohol sales would increase by 2.8 percent as a result of Sunday opening, swelling state coffers by $2.4 million in sales tax and $1.2 million in excise taxes. At a time when we’re trying to close a budget deficit of $3.7 billion dollars, every little bit helps. If Sunday alcohol sales mean that libraries can stay open longer or fewer teachers must be laid off or we less radical cuts to other services that have already faced deep cutbacks at time when their services are needed more than ever, let’s do it. The vast majority of Connecticut residents support the measure. Why should our legislature to cater to a small minority of vocal lobbyists? We all have to make sacrifices, right?
Do I feel sorry for the small family businesses that will have to conduct a cost/benefit analysis and make the choice (CHOICE being the operative word here) whether or not to implement Sunday opening hours? Well, to them I say, welcome to the free market world of the self-employed, people. For most of us, it’s a 24/7 existence. Instead of fighting a losing battle on antiquated Sunday opening hours, I’d be working on trying to figure out how to differentiate yourselves from the big box stores in terms of customer service, added value and loyalty, the same way that independent booksellers and other such business are learning is key.
Another of the arguments that the CPSA uses to justify its opposition is public safety. Their website claims “We should be discussing: reduction in outlets, fewer hours, days of sale, to get a grip on the increasing problem of drunken driving and the resulting deaths associated with alcohol abuse. The terrible cost of alcohol abuse is paid for by the state in health, social services and public safety costs, which would only increase well beyond any revenue gain from this costly proposal.”
The facts simply don’t support the CPSA fear mongering. Using a panel data set of all fatal vehicle accidents in the U.S. between 1990 and 2008 combined with thirteen state repeals of blue laws, a May 2010 Cornell study found that restricting alcohol sales on Sunday actually had a negligible effect on fatal accident rates.
I urge our State legislators to look at the facts rather than fiction and end this antiquated Blue Law folly.
Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.