Texans: Are you ready to buy booze on Sundays?

Bottles and glasses of assorted alcoholic beverages - Thinkstock Photos
Bottles and glasses of assorted alcoholic beverages - Thinkstock Photos Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chris Keel cherishes Sundays.

That’s the one day each week he closes the doors to his Fort Worth store, Put a Cork In It.

“That day off is very critical,” he said.

So any plan to do away with a Texas law that prevents stores from selling liquor on Sundays wouldn’t really impact him.

“It’s my only day off,” said Keel, whose wine shop is impacted by the law because it carries about 40 brands of distilled spirits. “Changing the law would allow me maybe to do some tastings, but I wouldn’t be open even if the law changed.”

State Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, proposes House Bill 1100 to do away with a so-called “blue law” in Texas and let liquor stores open on Sunday to sell distilled spirits.

Raymond’s bill would limit Sunday liquor sales to between noon and 10 p.m.

But it also would extend the hours liquor could be sold other days of the week, allowing stores to open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“Allowing Sunday sales in Texas is long overdue,” Raymond said. “I’ve heard from many constituents — including small business owners — who have asked me to file this bill to let the free market be free.

“Now is the time for Texas to repeal this outdated law.”

People across the state may well be clamoring for this law, some local business owners say.

But there’s a concern that this bill will just move Texas closer to allowing liquor sales at giant retailers such as Walmart or Costco, which could ultimately put small family owned shops out of business.

A state law that prevents public companies from selling liquor was ruled unconstitutional last year, but it is still under appeal.

The proposal to eliminate this blue law “is paving the way for large stores to sell liquor,” said Robert Chicotsky, of Chicotsky’s Liquor Store in Fort Worth. “That would definitely hurt any of the small stores and chains too.”

Sunday sales

Chicotsky said the blue law lets him close the doors to his store on Sundays and enjoy the day off, knowing he isn’t losing business to competitors.

Past Legislative Budget Board reports have shown that allowing liquor stores to open in Texas on Sundays could generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the state.

But Chicotsky isn’t so sure about that.

“I think people are buying on Fridays and Saturdays for Sunday,” he said. “The state may get a little bump, but I feel customers are already buying liquor to cover for the weekend.”

Forty-two states allow liquor sales on Sundays.

If Texas law changes, Chicotsky said he would feel the need to open his store on Sundays, which would make him the only business in his strip open that day.

“Texas package stores are owned predominantly by small business owners who operate on slim margins,” said Jennifer Stevens, a spokeswoman for the Texas Package Store Association. “Opening the state to Sunday sales will only increase the cost of doing business and therefore increase prices on consumers.”

Blue laws

So-called blue laws prevent the sale of certain products on Sundays, the traditional day of worship and rest. In some areas, the laws date to the early 1600s and required people to attend church on Sundays.

Laws evolved through the years and, by the 1960s, they prevented more than 40 items in Texas — including knives, liquor, cars and washing machines — from being sold on Saturdays and Sundays.

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

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

“Consumers want to purchase spirits when they want and where they want. This legislation would bring the state in line with consumer buying preferences,’’ said Dale Szyndrowski, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council.

“Texas lawmakers have an opportunity to bring state spirits laws into the modern age and promote a free and fair market to encourage competition, innovation and economic growth.’’

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.