Monday, February 9, 2009

Concerning Sunday Liquor Sales

There is no characteristic that inheres in beer or bikes suggesting that the consumption of the former is in any way tied to the riding of the latter. On the contrary, the two activities should probably be segregated for safety's sake (to say nothing of the legal implications). And yet, as our periodic pub crawls demonstrate, a certain cultural link exists between bikin' and drinkin'. (Also, there is an inarguable link between me and drinking.)

So it was with some interest - and some confusion - that I read the piece in today's Courant concerning renewed debate among our state's legislators and boozewallas on the question of whether to legalize the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sundays. Not surprisingly, the proprietors of dram shops near the borders with our more libertine sister states decry the loss of clientele on Sundays, when many a tremor-handed dipsomaniac can be seen piloting his automobile onto foreign soil to spend coveted, highly taxed American greenbacks on the sinful stuff. Some legislators also raise the alarm, noting that Connecticut's treasury should be the first to benefit from her citizens' vile habits. But strangely, the liquor sellers' lobbying group and most liquor shop proprietors in the interior of the state oppose Sunday sales. They think if sabbath booze-purveying were allowed, they would have to stay open that day to stay competetive, which they don't want to do, either because they like having a day off (fair) or fear that the sales would not increase enough to cover the cost of being open (also fair).

But here's what I don't get: If they don't want to be open Sundays, why don't they just, you know, stay closed? I mean, if they're already not doing business on Sundays, they wouldn't be any worse off if they continued not to do business on Sundays, would they? There is no limit on the hours when gas stations can stay open, but I've never heard the argument that all of them should close at, say, midnight so it would be easier to be competetive. You know why I've never heard that argument? Because it's stupid and doesn't make any sense. And who ever heard of a lobbying group for a group of retailers that advocates for limiting their clients' ability to sell stuff? It's like if prostitutes threw a bake sale to raise money for more vice squads, except more boring.

So what gives here? Can someone with more experience in Connecticut politics explain this craziness to me? Just thinking about it makes me need a drink.


Brendan said...

we're kind of a dumb state. that sums up ct politics.

Joel said...

Prez, I want to be able to buy beer on Sunday almost as much as you do, but the "having-to-open-to-compete argument" does make some sense.
Over time, the store would probably lose customers because sundays would force regular customers to go to other stores for their new-found freedom to buy on sundays. Some of these customers would probably also start to visit these other stores mon-sat, especially if they found one they like better than the old one. This would be lost sales for the old store that stayed closed on Sundays.

Also, maybe there are economies of scale to be gained by going from a six-day-a-week store to a seven-day-a-week store.

For example, if wholesale prices are finely differentiated across wholesale purchase volume, then a store that only buys and sells six days a week worth of booze might end up paying higher wholesale prices than a seven-day-a-week store.

Can any booze store owners comment?

Brendan said...

I think we're looking at wrong and falling into the lobbyists' trap: this isn't simply a liquor store owner issue, it's also a consumer issue. No one is standing up for us. The blue law was meant to curb alcohol consumption on god's day, it had nothing to do with the rights of liquor stores. We no longer have this world view and are miles from the spirit and intent of the law. Instead, we're trying to find ways to fit the law into a special interest group's narrow vision.

The vast majority of people affected by this law are consumers and it is their clear desire to have this law changed. Why not listen to them?

Rich said...

Well, what New York State did is an interesting study. Liquor stores there weren't allowed to open on Sunday. In 2003 it changed. The new law there still requires stores to close one day a week, however it's up to the proprietor to decide which day that is. More freedom for the consumer. More freedom for the business, and lost business for one store is (in theory) gained back on another day from the "closed" day of the competing store.

Click this link for a really interesting NY Times report on the immediate results and effects in the NYC area.

Now the real confusing thing to me are the grocery stores. NY grocery stores were always able to sell beer on Sundays. Why not here? There's obviously a legal distinction here between liquor stores and grocery stores since grocery stores in this state can't sell wine or distilled spirits. Therefore, it's not a question of competition. Since grocery stores are all open and fully staffed on Sundays, there's no reason to force them to lose beer sales that day.

Blue laws are an antiquated talisman to an outdated puritan past. It's time for them to go and be replaced with laws more in touch with our modern sensibilities.

Brendan said...

We're not totally puritan. We were the second to last to ratify the 18th amendment.

We're still no Rhode Island, though.

El Presidente de China said...

Joel, I don't think people who were forced to go to a different liquor store on Sundays would gradually change their allegiance. At the end of the day, convenience and price are always paramount when it comes to booze purchases, so most people would still go to their neighborhood packy whenever they could.

Also, yeah, consumers' rights! What do we want? BOOZE! When do we want it? SUNDAYS!

Joel said...

I guess liquor store owners are too busy to comment. Maybe we will have to wait until Sunday.