If Texans can buy alcohol-to-go from restaurants on Sundays, it’s time to lift all blue laws
Texas lawmakers passed a long-overdue update to alcohol laws, allowing restaurants to sell alcohol-to-go on Sunday. Now it’s time to scrap blue laws.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a to-go alcohol bill to allow restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks via takeout or delivery. But while permanently green-lighting to-go drinks from restaurants is a great idea, and one many states around the country are pursuing during COVID-19, it’s far from the only outdated Texas booze law that needs revisiting.
Only seven states still have blue laws restricting sales of liquor on Sundays. Blue laws trace their origin back even before Prohibition, and in nearly every other industry but alcohol, they have been long since repealed. Originally based on the desire to limit what items were sold on the Sabbath, these laws no longer make much sense in our complex 21st century marketplace.
For instance, Texas’ blue law is far from straightforward. The state still permits beer and wine sales on Sundays, and restaurants and bars can still serve their drinks seven days a week. Now restaurants will be able to sell alcohol for off-premises consumption on Sundays, too. And needless to say, there is no rule against drinking alcohol on Sundays, which makes the entire premise of a Sunday sales restriction inherently silly.
Another anomaly of Texas’ blue laws is that the state allows craft distilleries to open seven days a week but does not permit them to make any bottle sales on Sunday. This means distilleries can offer tours, provide tastings and allow their customers to enjoy a drink on the premises on a Sunday, but a customer who wants to take a bottle home is out of luck.
Fortunately, legislation is pending in Austin that would overturn Texas’ ban on Sunday liquor sales. While allowing liquor sales on Sundays would seem like a straightforward reform, Texas has sadly been down this road before. In previous legislative sessions, some lawmakers have tried to repeal the state’s blue law only to fall short of the needed votes.
One reason for optimism this year is the nationwide renewed emphasis on updating alcohol rules in the new normal of COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, policymakers have shown an inclination to revisit outdated and unnecessary laws in nearly every sector. Alcohol has been no exception as states have approved everything from to-go cocktails to shipments of bourbon to your door.
Lawmakers have rightly recognized the economic impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses and, unfortunately, the alcohol industry has been on the front line of this fallout. The pandemic has forced many craft breweries and distilleries to lay off staff, and every seller, from the neighborhood liquor store to the bar down the street, has felt the crunch.
Loosening restrictions like blue laws can help alleviate some of this pain and provide a little bit of economic stimulus for these small businesses. That’s why so many members of the state’s craft distillery community support the push to repeal Texas’ blue laws, since Sunday sales are a much-needed way to expand their businesses and grow.
Extending Texas’ economic freedom to alcohol should be a top priority in the years ahead, and there’s no better place to start than finally ending blue laws.