A Toast to Drinking on Sundays

Massachusetts legislature is worthy of praise for repealing outdated liquor regulations

Whether grudgingly returning to campus after some precious time spent at home, shamelessly bearing witness to the Patriots’ eighth-consecutive win or simply enjoying the remnants of a deceptively short holiday, all had reason to celebrate yesterday. Collective cries for unregulated Sunday booze-buying have been well-received, effectively voiding one of Massachusetts' residual “blue laws” and making the Sabbath just another day for liquor stores to vend their wares.

In a long-awaited repeal, the Massachusetts legislature voted on Nov. 19 to lift the 200-year old ban on Sunday liquor sales. Massachusetts Gov. W. Mitt Romney is expected to sign the legislation into law, allowing immediate Sunday sales for anxiously awaiting alcohol consumers.

To be fair, euphoria over the ability to buy beer Sunday should not be directed toward this most recent repeal, but rather to previous loosening of restrictions. Not only have Sunday sales been permitted within 10 miles from state borders—a measure to offset disadvantages to Massachusetts-border stores facing competition from our liquor-liberated neighbors in New Hampshire and Vermont who allow their citizens to indulge Sunday cravings—but the state has permitted liquor sales on Sundays from Thanksgiving until New Years when the state feared it would lose too much revenue to neighbors during this lucrative liquor-buying season.

The Puritanical regulation—one of many blue laws that have slowly been repealed or tempered over the years due to their unsavory and restrictive nature—has remained on the books partially because of lobbying by liquor store owners who argue that allowing Sunday sales will hurt their mom-and-pop outfits. A past attempt to let liquor flow freely on Sundays failed in October, largely due to these concerns.

Because of extended hours, so goes the argument, small establishments that need to hire more staff will potentially lose money if Sunday profits don’t exceed their added operating costs. However, as State Representative Peter J. Larkin indicated, liquor stores will not be forced to open their doors on Sundays; and, to further deflate concerns for small businesses, only those establishments with seven or more full-time workers will be made to pay the requisite time-and-a-half wage to Sunday workers.

No one is claiming that the extra day will prove a huge boon for business—Sunday isn’t quite synonymous with heavy drinking. Rather, a fully-functioning, six-day-a-week store will not likely lose significant business because people are forced to venture a few blocks to purchase their toxins elsewhere whenever afflicted with the urge for a Sunday drink. It’s doubtful that Louie’s—which will remain closed on Sundays—will lose much business to beer-guzzling students on other, more alcohol-laden nights.

The bottom line is that the state has no reason to meddle in the alcohol-purchasing habits of its citizens or allow for unnecessary regulation of commodities, particularly when the only rationale for barring sales rests on outdated, frustrating regulations passed down from a more rigid and oppressive time. The legislature and Romney—provided he signs the legislation into law as expected—must be commended on finally recognizing the importance of the unfettered sales to Massachusetts alcohol-consumers. We can all drink to that.