Sunday, January 22, 2012

Behind the Ban on Sunday Sales of Alcohol

The history of Connecticut’s blue state laws and how they influenced the sale of alcohol

Saturday. It’s a day off of work, a day full of household chores, the last day of the weekend to buy alcohol.

I can’t say Connecticut’s ban on Sunday sales of alcohol has ever affected me much. But then I grew up in Connecticut with the understanding that you buy your alcohol before 9 p.m. that the package stores closed on Sundays, and that for some inexplicable reason you can’t buy wine in the supermarkets.

It was years before I realized those norms were actually strange. The ban on Sunday sales of alcohol still seems to confuse many of my non-Connecticut native friends now living in the nutmeg state, even if they have lived here for years.

But why, they repeatedly ask.

Is it really that big of a deal if you know you can’t buy it beforehand, I repeatedly respond.

Apparently, though, it is a big deal, and my friends aren’t the only ones who think so. When Governor Dannel Malloy called for Sunday alcohol sales last week, it immediately caused the resumption of the debate on Sunday sales of alcohol, and called into question if our state is really ready to leave its Puritanical roots behind.

The Sunday ban on sales of alcohol dates back not to prohibition, but even further, to our Puritan heritage. According to state Senator Kevin Witkos of the 17th Assembly District, Connecticut has prohibited Sunday alcohol sales since about 1882.

But the idea really came about from when the state’s first government based in New Haven created the Blue Laws in the 1600s. Under the direction of Theophilus Eaton and Reverend John Cotton the blue laws, established in 1655, addressed public morality, and according and The True Blue Laws of Connecticut and New Haven helped give our state it’s Blue Law State nickname.

While the ban on Sunday sales of alcohol was never really a blue law per se it prevented businesses up until the late 1970s from being open at all on Sundays. In fact, according to Witkos some business owners in the Olde Mistick Village were even arrested for violating the law.

But even though those blues laws were slowly challenged and repealed the ban on the Sunday sales of alcohol remained.

Today, Connecticut is one of only 13 states to prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia are the other states. Only Connecticut and Indiana, however, however completely ban beer, wine and liquor sales on Sundays, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said in a press release.

Interestingly, the original blue state laws tried to regulate Sunday as a day of rest. Many of the package store owners I spoke with this week said they liked not being able to open on Sunday. The ban gives them time to spend with their families.



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