Puritans and history buffs alike will soon celebrate the 300th birthday of one of America’s greatest eighteenth century firebrand preachers, Jonathan Edwards. But it seems that Massachusetts has only begun its own Great Awakening, with a proposal to repeal some of Edwards’ favorite blue laws still on the books. Created by paternalistic do-gooders who simultaneously serve as legislators, blue laws are those bastions of moral purity, those pesky legal devices that regulate amusements and “immoral” activity—often keeping alcohol locked-up for certain hours or days. On Tuesday, the brave souls of the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that would reverse Massachusetts’ blue law that forbids the selling of alcohol on Sundays. On Wednesday, the House voted 87 to 64 to keep the restriction on alcohol sales on the books. But the measure will return to the floor next week, and at least 12 legislators should hear the pleas of the hordes of college students in the state of Massachusetts and the cries of everyone who believes in the separation of church and state.
The fact that convenience and liquor stores do not sell booze on Sunday has earned the chagrin of Harvard’s thirsty collegiates by leaving them high and dry in front of a television broadcasting what turns out to be an exceptionally less interesting football game without a six-pack accompaniment. Smart college students who have learned to plan ahead, stocking up on the sauce just before the Sabbath, may well have figured out how to flout legislators. But buying their juice early and downing it the following day forces them to make an extra effort on Saturday night—carrying twice as much back from Louie’s and killing their buzz. And if students aren’t able to think ahead, they face some of the longest known beer runs—to states like New Hampshire, where hooch runs free no matter the time or day.
These border states have taken advantage of Massachusetts’ antiquated moral rectitude by cashing in on the additional tax revenues of Sunday alcohol sales, capturing currency that would have otherwise lined Massachusetts’ drained coffers. To prevent this Sunday run for the border, legislators have already tempered the blue law with some economic sense. Angry that New Hampshire quickly usurped the Sunday market for alcohol, Massachusetts enacted a law allowing the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages within 10 miles of the New Hampshire border. And as the law stands, while Sunday sales are verboten for most of the year, the Sundays between Thanksgiving and New Years are excluded from the rule. The logic is divine: Massachusetts and convenience store owners clearly stand to lose revenue because of an antiquated blue law, so they poke a few holes in it during high-flow times.
When the topic of nonsensical governance of commodities is on the floor of the legislature again next week, there’s another issue students would benefit to see debated: the ban on selling liquor in grocery stores. While Californians can enjoy the privilege of buying their Smirnoff in any Safeway, Massachusetts citizens, and the students that dwell seasonally within its drier-than-thou borders, are denied this convenience.
Would Massachusetts’ hoped-for law changes turn the beloved Commonwealth into a sordid collection of hussies and miscreants? Alas, no. The legislature has already diluted their supposed morals with necessary pragmatism, and the world has not come to an end. This time, Massachusetts must stop flagellating itself, let its people both consume and buy liquor on Sunday, and make some easy cash.
And for those last vestiges of Puritanism, those high-flying souls who might encourage the legislature to keep the law on the books, there is an even more important point. God surely would have wanted residents of Massachusetts to be able to buy alcohol on Sunday. Because whether you have worked hard all week at the office, studyied all week at Lamont or spent six days creating the universe, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a Brewski.