Massachusetts Eyes Sunday Liquor Sales

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Massachusetts Eyes Sunday Liquor Sales

BOSTON -- The House today plans to consider whether to scrap the state's longstanding prohibition against Sunday sales of beer and liquor in stores, as lawmakers search for new tax revenues and try to protect merchants from out-of-state competitors.

The measure under consideration would allow cities and towns to issue permits to stores that want to sell beer and liquor on Sundays, rather than rolling back the prohibition statewide. The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill Tuesday, but the prospects for final passage are uncertain, according to The Boston Globe.

State Representative Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams), who is pushing the change, said it isn't fair to restrict liquor stores when Massachusetts has already cleared the way for other retailers to operate on Sundays. Bosley's district borders New York, which lifted its Sunday sales ban in May.

"The sun comes out on a Sunday afternoon, and you want to barbecue with a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer, or company shows up, or you want to go to the beach ? what's the difference between that and buying a bottle of suntan lotion at the convenience store?" Bosley said. "If you use it responsibly, there should be no difference at all."

Bosley said he isn't sure how much tax revenue the state would gain from additional sales, though "intuitively, we know some revenue will be raised."

A bill to eliminate the Sunday restriction entirely hasn't reached the floor of the Massachusetts House for several years, according to Bosley. He said the current rule is unfair to liquor store owners, such as some in his district who are just beyond the 10-mile zone and losing business to competitors. Sponsors of the legislation and representatives of the liquor industry were unable to provide figures yesterday on how much Massachusetts residents buy from out-of-state liquor stores on Sundays.

Nevertheless, many small liquor store owners oppose the change because it would create pressure for them to work on what is now their only day off, according to the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, which represents roughly 700 owners. Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the group, says it will remain neutral in the debate.

Plagued by the same financial woes that are afflicting Massachusetts, legislators in Rhode Island, Kansas and Washington State are also considering relaxing or eliminating their blue laws.