There used to be a handful of things you just couldn't buy on Sundays in Texas, banned through through state "blue laws." Almost all of those bans have since been repealed, but the restriction keeping liquor stores' doors closed on Sunday has lingered.
That, too, could change under a bill filed Jan. 25 by state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo. House Bill 1100 would allow the state's "package stores" — in other words, liquor stores — to open from noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The bill would also allow expanded hours every other day of the week: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
"Allowing Sunday sales in Texas is long overdue," Raymond said in a news release. "I’ve heard from many constituents — including small business owners — who have asked me to file this bill to let the free market be free. Now is the time for Texas to repeal this outdated law."
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Selling spirits on Sundays is permitted in 42 states, 20 of which have repealed their blue laws since 2002, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade group that advocates for liquor manufacturers across the country. Bars, restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and hotels are currently allowed to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays in Texas. Liquor, however, can't be sold in grocery and convenience stores any day of the week; bars, restaurants and hotels can sell it for on-premise consumption only.
The Distilled Spirits Council supports HB 1100 because of its convenience for consumers, "who should have the ability to purchase spirits when they want, where they want and how they want," Dale Szyndrowski, vice president of the organization said.
Having an open liquor store on Sunday afternoons is important, he said, "especially if you're running a Super Bowl party and don't happen to have tequila available for your margaritas. You forgot about it or you ran out of it. The convenience of running to the liquor store to get more would be very helpful."
Raymond's bill isn't the first time the ban on Sunday liquor store operation has come up in the Texas Legislature. Lawmakers have tried to lift it for years, including during the last session, according to the Houston Chronicle. But Szyndrowski said he thinks there is momentum this session: the council has seen interest from consumers since the bill was announced, and the state's Republican Party included lifting blue laws in its platform last year.
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The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission in a 2018-19 report also recommended modernizing both the state's laws regulating the sale of alcohol and the organization overseeing the laws, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Not everybody is on board with liquor stores opening seven days a week — including some in the liquor store lobby. The Texas Package Store Association said in a statement to the American-Statesman that they will work with the Texas Legislature on the issue. In the past, the organization has opposed legislation that would have gutted the blue law, saying sales wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of additional overhead, according to a 2013 Texas Tribune article.
“We won’t generate enough sales to handle the change,” David Jabour, president of the Austin-based Twin Liquors, told the Tribune.
Szyndrowski disagrees. In states that have repealed the blue laws, he said, there has been a 2 to 6 percent increase in sales in the next year or two, citing his organization's analyses of sales and tax collection data. Szyndrowski said that the Distilled Spirits Council wants to work with the liquor store lobby on the issue.
"It's time they think about the consumer and not their government-guaranteed day off," he said.
HB 1100 isn't the only booze-related bill on tap this year in Texas. Once again, production breweries are pushing to sell packaged beer to go from their taprooms, which their brewpub counterparts (as well as wineries and distilleries) can already do. They had hoped to make that change in the previous session.