Politics & Government

Will Texas scrap bans on Sunday sales of alcohol and cars?

State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, has filed a bill to let dealerships sell vehicles on both Saturdays and Sundays. This is the new car lot at Frank Kent Hyundai (9000 West Freeway), in Fort Worth.
State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, has filed a bill to let dealerships sell vehicles on both Saturdays and Sundays. This is the new car lot at Frank Kent Hyundai (9000 West Freeway), in Fort Worth. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texans are nothing if not loyal to the past.

But some are starting to wonder whether all ties to the past need to be honored.

Take Sunday blue laws.

The laws, enacted decades ago to limit what people can do or buy on Sundays, required people to attend church and prevented the sale of items such as knives, nails and washing machines.

Most of the laws were repealed in 1985, but two remain: Vehicles can’t be sold on consecutive weekend days, and package liquor sales are banned on Sundays.

Now lawmakers have revived proposals to eliminate the car sales ban and to eat around the edges of the liquor sales prohibition.

“At one time, some enterprises could not even open one day on weekends, either Saturday or Sunday,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Sundays were usually very quiet with few large stores open.

“Now, Sundays are much like other days,” he said. “It is not surprising that some strong conservatives would introduce laws eliminating blue laws.”

The real question, some say, is whether 2015 will be the year these proposals — which come up nearly every session — finally win approval in the Legislature.

Car sales

Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, has filed Senate Bill 441 to allow vehicle sales on both Saturdays and Sundays.

“We are always excited to have a discussion about freeing up the markets in Texas,” she said in a statement. “This bill has provided a great opportunity to bring everyone to the table to discuss the issue.

“Texas consumers don’t always have an advocate for allowing them the freedom to choose how to engage in commerce, and that’s why we filed this bill.”

The proposal is drawing mixed reactions.

“This is ridiculous,” said Will Churchill, owner of Frank Kent Honda, Hyundai and Cadillac. “I’m highly opposed.

“If you look at states that allow selling on Sundays and those that don’t, you don’t sell any more or less cars by being open on Sundays.

“From a vehicle volume perspective, it’s net neutral,” he said. “It’s already tough enough to get good employees and management in a business with our hours. Adding Sunday sales would exacerbate the situation.”

Paul Nadjarian, CEO of Mojo Motors, isn’t so sure.

“Most blue laws are volume neutral. Consumer will buy the same number of cars if dealers are open for sale 6 days a week vs 7 days a week,” said Nadjarian, whose company is a website that lets shoppers follow vehicles and get alerts when dealerships drop the prices. “The extra day does not drive any incremental volume.”

Nicholas Parks knows how the car industry works in Texas and in other states. And he would just as soon keep the law.

“In California, there are no blue laws, and dealerships are open seven days a week,” said Parks, a Texas-based car dealer who is a partner in a group that owns dealerships in other states, including California, Colorado, Alabama and Tennessee. “It’s terrible.

“When your store is open, you are there,” he said. “It’s the nature of the business. When I’m in California, I work seven days a week. I come back to Dallas totally exhausted and wonder why I bought the stores in California.”

Liquor sales

Texans can buy mixed drinks at bars and restaurants on Sundays — and they can buy beer and wine at grocery stores that day — but liquor stores have to be closed Sundays.

A few bills have been filed to chip away at that law.

Grace period: Senate Bill 604 by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, would let shoppers stay in package stores past the current closing time. Currently, shoppers must leave at 9 p.m., even if they aren’t finished shopping, and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission workers can issue tickets to employees who complete sales after the store closes.

Eltife’s office said this would give shoppers a reasonable amount of time, perhaps 30 minutes, to complete their purchases. It could help last-minute shoppers, particularly on Saturdays. Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, filed the similar House Bill 824.

One more hour: Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, filed HB1634 to let Texans start shopping for liquor earlier on Saturday so they can buy what they need to cover them through Sunday. That would shift the hours that liquor stores could be open on Saturdays to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. rather than the current 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Every year someone thinks about” filing a bill to end the ban on Sunday liquor sales, he said. “If you know much about the alcohol industry, it’s very well-regulated and there’s a delicate balance.”

Robert Chicotsky, co-owner of Chicotsky’s Liquor Store in Fort Worth, said he has mixed feelings about the current limits.

“I love having my Sunday off,” he said. “But on the other hand, it is kind of crazy that you can’t sell liquor on Sundays but you can go to a grocery store and buy all the beer and wine you want.”

He said he believes Texans are so accustomed to the law that sales wouldn’t dramatically increase on Sundays.

“Right now, the public buys heavily on Friday and Saturday to cover for Sunday,” Chicotsky said. “I feel there would be a modest increase in sales. It will be another day for us to be open, another day of expenses and overhead.”

A “Boot the Ban” effort has begun on social media as the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States spearheads a petition drive encouraging Texans to follow the lead of the 38 states that allow Sunday liquor sales.

“It makes no sense for stores that sell packaged distilled spirits to be forced to close on Sundays regardless of the owners’, employees’, or consumers’ wishes and regardless of what other goods these stores sell,” according to the group’s note on Facebook.

“It is not illegal to shop on Sunday or even to shop for or consume adult beverages on Sunday. It is, however, high time that Texas did away with this last bit of excessive [and unfair] business regulation.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

A closer look

Blue laws in some areas date to the early 1600s and required people to attend church on Sundays.

By 1961, 42 items ranging from nails and china to air conditioners and knives — even household items such as pans, pots and washing machines — were banned form being sold on both Saturday and Sunday.

Many of those rules were repealed in Texas in 1985.

“The law is archaic and outdated,” the late Rep. Doyle Willis, D-Fort Worth, said at the time. “It’s time to move into the 20th century.”

— Anna M. Tinsley

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